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‘Hungry’ Jakobi Meyers feasts on opposing defenses for Raiders

Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is catching passes at a career-best rate in his first season with the Raiders, but it’s another aspect of his game that best describes his work ethic and value.

“If you want to know what Jakobi Meyers is all about, just turn on the film and watch him run block,” rookie receiver Tre Tucker said. “He goes out there every play and brings it. The guy is obviously a phenomenal route runner and pass catcher, all of the above, but that ability to put his body on the line for his team and go out there and block like a lineman is special.”

Meyers has another word for it: hunger.

All 32 teams passed on the chance to select Meyers in the 2019 NFL draft despite a productive career at North Carolina State.

Eventually, the Patriots gave him a shot as an undrafted free agent. It was an opportunity Meyers appreciated, but the slight has pushed him to work hard every day of his career.

“A lot,” he said of how much of his drive comes from not being selected in the draft. “A whole bunch. There’s other factors and a whole bunch of things that kind of motivate me, but that’s something I will never forget.”

The 26-year-old Georgia native spent the first four seasons of his career with New England, the first three under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and two with Mick Lombardi as his receivers coach.

That group is now reunited with the Raiders, who will host the Patriots on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

Laying the foundation

McDaniels, now the Raiders’ coach, was high on Meyers from the start, even though the team didn’t draft him.

Part of the reason Meyers didn’t get drafted is because he didn’t test well in terms of the coveted measurables in the receiver group. But he had entered college as a quarterback and was just learning to play his new position.

His biggest strengths at the time were his character and work ethic, which don’t exactly show up in the 40-yard dash.

McDaniels had also made the same switch in college, which helped form a quick bond.

“He had kind of a cerebral understanding of the passing game from a different perspective as a former quarterback, which I think helps receivers when they do that,” McDaniels said. “He had great hands in college, that was not something that we taught him how to do. Plus, he’s a very intelligent kid, You have a lot of traits there that you’d love to work with.”

Meyers paid dividends immediately. He went from 26 receptions as a rookie to 59 in 2020 and 83 in his first season as a full-time starter in 2021 when Lombardi, now the Raiders’ offensive coordinator, was coaching receivers in New England.

“He’s always just wanted to try and get better and try and improve,” Lombardi said. “He wants to get better. He’s still growing … I have a lot of close feelings for Jakobi Meyers.”

He’s not alone.

Great player, better teammate

Tucker’s head was still spinning when he walked into the Raiders’ facility and saw Meyers, a player he had watched on TV, for the first time.

“What stood out to me was that he came right up to me and introduced himself,” the rookie said. “Of course, I already knew who he was, but that meant something.”

It wasn’t a one-time deal.

Tucker said it has almost become tradition for Meyers to come into the building each day and greet Tucker with kind words and a smile. The veteran also makes it a habit to share encouragement and advice in the huddle.

“He’s like a big brother,” Tucker said. “He’s such a good guy.”

That sense of camaraderie extends to his former team. Even though Meyers had a social media post he later called “childish” in which he said “cold world” when New England signed his replacement in JuJu Smith-Schuster days after Meyers had gone to the Raiders, he still has plenty of love for the Patriots as they struggle.

“If anything, it makes me feel bad for them,” Meyers said. “I have a lot of friends and family over there. I want them to play their best ball, and I want us to play our best ball. It’s really just about inspiring the kids who are watching. I’ll put my best foot forward, and I hope they do the same.”

Taking flight

Meyers has 25 catches for the Raiders despite missing one game with a concussion. He’s on track to shatter his career high and has thrived as a complementary receiver to Davante Adams.

With his seven-catch, 75-yard performance last week, Myers is the 13th undrafted player in league history to record 3,000 or more receiving yards in his first 64 games.

“When we all go out there and fight our hardest, the ball will fall where it falls,” he said. “I’ve been lucky so far.

“It’s always been instilled in me to be trustworthy every play. That’s what I try to do.”

It’s been noticed. Consistent and dependable are the two words used most about Meyers around the building.

“We have a lot of confidence in him whatever the situation is,” McDaniels said. “He thinks all the way through the game. If somebody’s seen a route one time, maybe he’ll change it up and do something a little different.”

Then there’s that blocking, which Meyers said he learned from watching Julian Edelman with the Patriots.

“I saw his approach to every play, but especially the run game,” Meyers said. “He’s a dog. I just silently paid attention and learned.”

The reunion

Meyers similarly studied Davante Adams last week as he went through a week of buildup before playing his former team, the Packers. He knew his turn to play against his former team was up next.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Meyers said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see my friends over there, my family over there and also go out there and try to get a win.”

Of course, he will also have to deal with some jokes. Meyers made the biggest blunder of his career last season when the Patriots played at Allegiant Stadium. He inexplicably tried a lateral back across the field as time expired in a tie game that turned into a game-winning score for the Raiders.

Meyers said the play still comes up constantly and has been ratcheted up this week.

“I probably get one once a day at this point, so I’m just rolling with the punches,” he said.

None of that matters to Meyers, who just wants to do his job and help his team win. It’s a bit of the Patriots’ way that he has brought to Las Vegas.

He has also carried with him the chip that has been on his shoulder since he went undrafted.

“I’m hungry,” he said. “That’s it. I want to be good. I want to be great.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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