The Patriots are now 0-2 after another frustrating loss to the division rival Miami Dolphins. The game followed a script similar to last week, a slow start, a mini comeback, and not finishing. With the defense keeping the Patriots in the game, one of the bright spots on offense was training camp darling Demario Douglas, also known by his nickname “Pop” Douglas, due to his ability to just simply “pop” on the field.
Douglas displayed that very ability to pop inside the first five minutes of the game on a second and one, where he was in motion from left to right pre-snap, picking up speed, he caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage on a screen-like play, he then made a man miss with a nice move (as advertised) then made another miss for a first down.
Douglas was on the field early and often with the starting offense, running a lot of routes out of motion, signifying that the Patriots were trying to take advantage of the rookie’s 4.44 speed. Speed is a quality this offense has been missing, with second year speedster Tyquan Thornton starting the season on injured reserve.
Douglas had what at first appeared to be another great play on a third and eight in the last seconds of the first quarter, making the catch on a quick slant, making a shifty move to avoid tacklers, converting the first down, and getting the Patriots into scoring position. Unfortunately, the impressive catch and run ended in disaster for New England, as Miami linebacker Bradley Chubb came from behind Douglas and punched the ball out. Miami recovered Douglas’s fumble.
As many know, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has one of the lowest tolerances for fumbles in the league, and he usually operates under the same rule, if you fumble, you’re out of the game, and sadly that appeared to be what happened to Douglas. Douglas was shown on the national broadcast sitting on the bench holding a football shortly after the fumble, showing his commitment to righting his wrong. Over the years in New England, there have been some exceptions to Belichick’s fumble rule, but almost none of them have been rookies.
This same exact thing happened to Rhamondre Stevenson in 2021, when he fumbled against the Dolphins in his first NFL game. Stevenson was taken out for the rest of the game after the fumble and didn’t see the field again for a couple of weeks. Hopefully Douglas will see the field again soon, because he appears to be one of the more dynamic receivers on the Patriots' current roster.
Douglas has been one of the many positive surprises among the Patriots' 2023 rookie class coming out of training camp. All through camp, it was repeatedly reported that Douglas appeared to be very explosive, with a quick twitch ability and could get open on a consistent basis.
During the draft, there were a percentage of Patriots fans and reporters that were upset that the team didn’t target a receiver high in the draft. One of the names that kept coming up was now Baltimore Raven Zay Flowers, out of Boston College. Flowers is known for being quick and explosive out of the slot, something that the Patriots really haven’t had since Julian Edelman. Through the summer and preseason, it started to seem like the Patriots might’ve found a Price Chopper version of Zay Flowers in the 6th round investment of Demario Douglas.
Before Douglas was taken 210th overall by the Patriots back in April, he made a name for himself at the small private Christian institution of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Douglas’s Liberty career started in 2019, when he redshirted his freshman year. In his redshirt year, Douglas played in four games, catching nine balls for 136 yards, clearly making the most out of every opportunity. In 2020, Douglas played in 11 games and recorded 32 receptions for 363 yards and six touchdowns, as well as averaging 11.3 yards per catch. Douglas also got involved in the return game, fielding 15 punts for 166 yards and a touchdown, earning him Freshman All-American notice.
Douglas continued to improve in 2021, catching 52 passes for 701 yards and six touchdowns in just six games played. Douglas also averaged 13.5 yards per reception, getting most of those yards after the catch with his quickness and impressive juke ability. Douglas continued his dominance in the return game, picking up 143 yards and a touchdown on 23 punt returns, he also returned two kicks for 59 yards.
Pop’s last season with the Flames was in 2022, where he led the team in receiving for the second straight year, with 79 receptions for 993 yards and six touchdowns, as well as averaging 12.6 yards per catch. On special teams, Douglas was a beast, returning 14 kicks for nearly 300 yards as well as returning 18 punts for 74 yards.
With such a productive college career, it does seem strange that Douglas went so late in the draft, but again, Liberty is a smaller school, and that is something NFL teams always consider. Douglas could prove to be a great player for the Patriots for his value, already showing his versatility, something Belichick and the Patriots love. Douglas has appeared to be versatile and explosive dating all the way back to his days at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Florida. In his senior season at Mandarin, Douglas finished with 1,700 all-purpose yards and 1,300 yards receiving, along with 18 touchdowns and he also scored four touchdowns in the state championship game that year.
If Douglas is able to escape the New England ball security doghouse, he can pace himself for a pretty productive season, already recording six receptions on nine targets for 59 yards in his first two NFL games. 19 of Douglas's yards were from his two receptions in the Miami game. Douglas hit the ground running in week one against the Eagles after boasting an impressive camp, where he was consistently running with the first team offense. In his NFL debut against the defending NFC Champions, Douglas caught four passes on seven targets for 40 yards, with his longest gain being 23 yards.
On the other hand, the two big knocks on Douglas are his size and ball security. Douglas stands at just 5’8’ and weighs 180 pounds. Douglas’s size raises the question of whether he can withstand NFL level punishment, especially when going across the middle out of the slot. At the same time, Troy Brown, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman would all contest that size isn’t as big of a factor in the NFL as some may think.
Douglas’s ball security has been a legitimate issue of his dating back to college. Despite being a great return man at Liberty, Douglas muffed six returns in his collegiate career, so that will be something he’ll have to figure out as he goes, but all rookies have their growing pains.
With New England appearing to have a lack of explosive offensive plays for the first two weeks, Douglas’s services could be very useful going forward, that is, if he plays. Next Sunday, the Patriots will square off against yet another division rival in the 1-1 New York Jets, who are coming off a demoralizing 30-10 loss to the highflying Cowboys.
With the Jets sporting an all-world defensive line and the Patriots dealing with some offensive line trouble, Mac Jones will have to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry. Douglas would appear be a perfect option for Jones in the quick game in a week three matchup that already appears to be a must-win. In the meantime, it is very likely that Douglas will be highlighting his ball security in practice this week, and hopefully that will get him back on the field next week at MetLife.
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