Former Patriot Says His Back Was ‘Against the Wall’ in New England

Getty Braxton Berrios

Every team has a list of released players who went on to become better at their next stops. For example, after the New England Patriots released return man Braxton Berrios in 2019 before he ever appeared in an NFL game, the New York Jets claimed him, and Berrios went on to become an All-Pro.

Berrios, 26, was one of the few bright spots for a Jets offense that averaged just 18.2 points per game last season. He didn’t just lead the league in average kick return yards at 30.4 per game — including a 102-yard TD return — he also set career-highs as a receiver.

Berrios caught 46 passes for 431 yards and 2 TDs in 2021, and he seemingly has his sights set on an even bigger impact in 2022. Berrios recently spoke with ESPN’s Adam Schefter about his brief time with the Patriots.

He acknowledged that he learned a lot from Bill Belichick and the experience, but he said it was a stressful time as well.

“It felt like the back was against the wall [in New England],” Berrios said on the June 27 episode of “The Adam Schefter Podcast.” “I kept going obviously and found ways to be productive, and obviously in the return game was the first way. I really wanted to make sure I was seen as a receiver as well. And really over the last year or so I’ve gotten a lot more of those opportunities.”

ALL the latest Patriots news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Patriots newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Patriots!

Berrios’ career path from pure return guy to a weapon in the passing game has been similar to that of Patriots great Julian Edelman. The recently retired Edelman got an opportunity as a receiver as a rookie, but those chances were sparse for the next three years of his career, when he tallied a total of 55 targets and 32 receptions.

However, in 2013, Edelman’s fifth year in the NFL, he was targeted 151 times and made 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and 6 TDs. It was the first of what would be three 1,000-yard seasons during his career.

Perhaps Berrios will follow in his footsteps.

ALL the latest Patriots news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Patriots newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Patriots!

The Next Great Patriots Return Man?

Berrios is long gone and even 2020 Patriots Pro Bowl return man Gunner Olszewski has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who will take over that role in 2022?

Even though he’s recovering from shoulder surgery, rookie Marcus Jones would be the most exciting candidate for the role. The Patriots selected Jones as a cornerback in the third round of the 2022 draft.

He seemingly fits as a slot cover guy, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his football gifts are on display when he is returning kicks and punts. Between kicks and punts, Jones had 9 return TDs during his collegiate career.

As a senior at Houston, he averaged 21 yards per kick return and 14.4 per punt return with 4 TDs. talent evaluator Lance Zierlein compared him to Kansas City Chiefs great Dante Hall.

If Jones is that good, no one in Foxboro will be missing Berrios or Olszewski — at least not as return men.

Other Options for the Patriots at Kick/Punt Return

If the Patriots elect not to go with Jones as their primary return man, they might also look at another rookie in WR Tyquan Thornton. When it comes to straight-line speed, Thornton might be the fastest player on the roster.

Thornton snapped off a blazing 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and he did return eight kicks during his college career. He didn’t take any of them for the distance, and he also has no punt returns on his collegiate record.

Because of Jones’ track record as a return man, he is the guy who would seemingly give the Patriots the most dangerous special teams weapon.

Follow the Heavy on Patriots Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest Patriots-related breaking news, rumors, content, and more!


Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x