Josh Boyce has fallen off the radar in recent weeks.
As the season took shape, New England's top three wide receivers emerged: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson. Boyce, the Patriots' fourth-round pick this year, and undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins were left to battle it out for the fourth spot . . . Until New England brought in veteran Austin Collie October 3.
Once Collie came in, Boyce promptly came out. As his six targets (one catch) in the team's first five games didn't testify positively on his behalf, Boyce was deactivated for Week 6 -- then Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9.
But Boyce's luck may yet change. The knee injury Collie suffered November 3 against Pittsburgh led to his release. For Boyce, it may lead to an opportunity.
"You never like to have a player get hurt and certainly Austin was helping us and doing what we asked of him," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Monday. "But any time you have a situation like this that comes up during the course of the season, it provides a little spark of competition and [I] think that is healthy for any group on the team. We will look forward to the receivers going out there and having a good week of practice and then trying to let it unfold from there."
Boyce has learned to ride the wave. He nodded steadily when reminded of his preseason breakout August 29 (two catches, including a 40-yard touchdown grab, and two rushes for 21 yards), and acknowledged his progress has not been a consistent upward climb since.
His optimism has never flagged.
"I feel great," he smiled Tuesday. "I'm still working hard trying to get to where I want to be. Whenever coaches want to put me in, I'll just go in and do it."
New England is back in action Monday against Carolina. If Boyce is active, it will be for the first time in over a month. He believes he still has his coaches' confidence despite being sidelined.
More importantly, he is ready to shake off any dust and hop down off the shelf.
"I've been practice player of the week a couple times," he stated. "I'm still in tune, I still know everything that's going on with the offense."