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Roster Bubble: Did Patriots Third-Year WR Make Team?

Kristian Wilkerson seems to answer the bell every time his name is called. Is this the year he finally locks up a roster spot?

FOXBORO — Even after trading away former first-round pick, N'Keal Harry, the New England Patriots have a logjam at wide receiver. 

Like most NFL teams, New England elected to sit its starters and give the young players a chance to showcase their talent in live preseason action. Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Ty Montgomery all watched from the sidelines.

Kristian Wilkerson started at wide receiver along with rookie Tyquan Thornton and second-year wideout Tre Nixon

Despite all three young receivers contributing, Wilkerson was arguably the team’s best offensive performer of the night. He hauled in eight receptions for 99 yards.

The third-year wideout made the most of his chances, including catching a 33-yard dime from Brian Hoyer in the first quarter. That big play helped set up New England’s first touchdown.

At halftime, the 25-year-old stood out with three catches for 53 yards.

He was the go-to receiver all game long for both Hoyer and Bailey Zappe, seemingly picking up right where he left off from last year’s impressive preseason and week 17 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that game, Not only did Mac Jones target him eight times, but he caught four passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns.

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"There's a lot of work to do," Wilkerson said. "You just got to keep working and try to get better each game." 

Wilkerson is competing for the final spot on the depth chart. When asked how a preseason game can help prepare for the regular season, Wilkerson talked about timing and understanding the importance of repetition.

"It allows you to shake off a little rust and get your timing together." he said. "It's just all about timing and getting that feel."

After going undrafted in 2020, the Tennessee Titans signed Wilkerson as an undrafted free agent. However, his tenure was short-lived as he was waived during final roster cuts. Wilkerson was signed to the Patriots practice squad three days later.

For Wilkerson, pursuing a roster spot with the Patriots is becoming an annual event. Every time he’s given an opportunity, he makes the most of it.

The Southeast Missouri State product set school records with 219 receptions for 3,540 yards and 33 touchdowns during his Redhawks career. 

His next opportunity will be next week when the Patriots host the Carolina Panthers for joint practices. And then next Friday night when the two teams play each other in preseason action.