By: Steve Balestrieri
Josh Boyce is healthy in 2014 and could be a big factor in the Patriots offense. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans photo)
Josh Boyce had a red-shirt rookie season in 2013 for the New England Patriots, having his season cut short due to injuries and struggles in the offense. But look for big improvements from him this summer. In fact look for the 2nd year player to have some significant impact on the field in 2014.
Boyce was selected in the 4th round with the 102nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft after playing at Texas Christian University in college. While at TCU, he started 33 of 39 games and caught 161 passes for 2,535 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. He is TCU’s all-time leader in TD receptions, second in receiving yards, and third in total receptions.
Big Combine #s, Even Injured: The 5’11, 206 lb Boyce had an outstanding performance at the NFL Combine, even though performing with a broken toe. His measurables include a timed 40 of 4.38, 22 reps on the bench press, a 34 inch vertical leap, 10’11” on the broad jump and a three-cone drill time of 6.68.
That broken toe cost him dearly during the spring as he missed significant time during the OTAs and was playing from behind the other receivers once training camp started in July.
Boyce played sparingly in the early going and after having a rough week in a Week 4 game against Atlanta, he didn’t see the field again for a significant amount of snaps until Week 13 against the Houston Texans. But rather than mope, Boyce worked hard learning the playbook and in practice would frequently play on the scout team as the next opponent’s top wide receiver.
Boyce helped the Patriots defense by portraying the likes of Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon or Mike Wallace taking advantage of his outstanding athleticism and kept himself as a valuable member on the roster.
Flashes of Potential Late in 2013: Once Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins went down with injuries; Boyce stepped back in the lineup and performed well, showing flashes of the potential the Patriots saw in the draft process.
In two games against Cleveland and Miami, Boyce hauled in seven passes for 91 yards until he suffered an ankle injury against the Dolphins that ended his season. It was a tough blow for a player that never missed a game in his 39 college contests. His final numbers for the season were only 9 catches for 121 yards; he also returned nine kickoffs for 214 yards including a 41 yarder against Houston.
While his numbers are far below what was projected and surely what the team had hoped for in 2013, Boyce is now healthy and with a year under his belt has become much more comfortable in the Patriots system. That and he’s added a little bit of bulk on his frame that will suit him well in the NFL.
Mike Reiss from ESPN Boston highlighted Boyce’s comfort in the system and how he’s making plays on the field during recent OTAs at the Gillette Stadium practice fields.
Boyce is arguably the fastest WR on the Patriots roster, with his speed and athleticism; he has the capability to make people miss especially in the open field. He is a crisp route runner and can line up in the slot, or as the “Z” wide receiver in the Patriots 11 personnel groupings.
With the departure of LeGarrette Blount to Pittsburgh via free agency, the Patriots also now have a big hole at the KR position. Right now during the spring that position belongs to Boyce as he’s getting the lion’s share of the reps as he and Reggie Dunn will compete for the top returner position.
Both provide the Patriots with the added dimension of speed on the returns, something that has been missing on the team in recent years. But the prevailing feeling seems to be that Boyce is a man looking much more comfortable in his 2nd year in New England, something the team hopes not only is true in his case but in the situations of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins as well.
The true test will be once the pads come on in July when training camp begins. But right now Boyce is positioning himself very well to be an integral part of the Patriots plans at wide receiver.
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