After months of waiting, Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us. Saturday marked the final cutdown day, requiring all teams to finalize their rosters at 53 players. The Patriots made some interesting moves, including releasing WR Josh Boyce and long snapper Danny Aiken. Boyce’s release came as a surprise to some, although his unimpressive preseason was an ominous sign. He was signed back to the practice squad on Monday after clearing waivers.
Boyce, who appeared in nine games last season, can thank his release in large part due to the emergence of fellow wideout Brian Tyms. Tyms has been somewhat of a journeyman through only two NFL seasons, spending time in San Francisco, Miami, and Cleveland before signing with the Pats during training camp. He played his college football at Florida A&M and went undrafted in 2012. In short, Tyms was a nobody until just a few weeks ago.
In the preseason, he totaled 11 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 wide receiver. The 6’3”, 204 pounder compares size-wise to teammate Brandon LaFell, making New England’s WR depth chart very complex.
The Patriots’ current starting X and Z players (outside receivers) figure to be sophomores Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Dobson measures up to the mold, standing at 6’3”. Thompkins is slightly below average for a wideout at 6’1”, but has shown excellent footwork and awareness along the boundaries, enough to make him a legitimate threat outside the numbers. Julian Edelman was, by all accounts, the Patriots’ best receiver in 2013, surpassing 100 catches and 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Listed generously at 5’10”, Edelman pairs with the talented yet fragile Danny Amendola (5’11”) as Tom Brady’s lethal slot weapons. With Rob Gronkowski, newly acquired TE/WR hybrid Tim Wright, and RB Shane Vereen, the receiving core is stacked, leaving very few targets for LaFell and Tyms. In order for all of the players mentioned in this paragraph to receive the same amount of targets they did in 2013, Brady would need to throw 683 passes, more than any quarterback threw last season.
Clearly, someone’s targets will have to decrease for Tyms (or LaFell) to see much time. Edelman’s looks figure to come way down from 151, but many of those will be going Gronkowski’s way, if he remains healthy. Count in a slight increase in production from Thompkins and Dobson, and you’re back to 683.
One of the reasons Tyms was kept on the roster was because of his four-game suspension (he tested positive for Adderall). This means he won’t count against the 53-man limit until Week 5, when another decision on his progress will be made. For Tyms to be activated, the Patriots would need to release a roster player, which, right now, seems unlikely. Of course, injuries happen in football, and they happen a lot in Foxboro. Dobson, Amendola, Gronkowski, and Thompkins combined to appear in only 43/64 (67% of) possible games last season. This leaves a chance for Tyms to seize a roster spot if and when the big guns go down.
All in all, Tyms has done all he can to show Bill Belichick what he can do. He possesses good size and above average hands with elite straight-line speed (he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash). The touchdown he caught against Washington in the first preseason game was reminiscent of 2007 Randy Moss. But to be blunt, Tyms is not Moss and likely never will be.
When it comes down to it, though, Tyms deserves a roster spot at the bottom of New England’s WR depth chart. But will he get it? Barring an injury, it doesn’t appear so right now.