Perry: Decker has a head start on learning Pats' schemes


FOXBORO -- For most newcomers to the Patriots offense, there's a daunting task awaiting them both inside the walls of Gillette Stadium and on the practice fields out back.

Learn the language. Learn the details of the scheme. Learn what Tom Brady wants.

None of those things are easy, and combined they've ground down previously great players to inconsequential ones. Chad Ochocinco, try as he did to get it all down, might have served as the foremost example of what can happen when the Patriots offense overwhelms a neophyte.

Though it's unclear what kind of role (if any) Eric Decker will play in 2018 for New England, he at least has the benefit of having learned elements of the Patriots offense previously. He was drafted in the third round in 2010 by then-Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, learning many of the same concepts that have been reintroduced to him since he signed as a free agent with the Patriots last week.

"There is [some carryover]," Decker acknowledged on Tuesday. "There's obviously things that have changed over time. There's some carryover. I was able to take and quickly learn. And there's a lot of new stuff too that I need to catch up on and get ready to go."

He'll have a variety of resources at his available as he picks up the new quirks that he doesn't remember from his rookie season. There's Brady, with whom Decker spoke at length during his first practice. There are other veteran receivers he'll share a meeting room with, like Chris Hogan, who's offered up his services. There's receivers coach Chad O'Shea. And of course, there's McDaniels.

"Josh drafted me in Denver, gave me an opportunity," Decker said. "Obviously a lot of respect for him. Probably the smartest coach I think I've had in my career. Guy knows his Xs and Os . . . It's been fun getting back with him."

In just a few days, the Patriots have already seen some of the fruits of McDaniels and Decker's shared history.

"He’s a smart guy," Bill Belichick said of Decker. "I know he has recall from some of the things that we do that Josh did at Denver that are carryover. There’s a lot of differences, but there’s certainly a lot of carryover."

Decker worked a side session with Brady during his first Patriots practice. He was targeted twice during 11-on-11 periods by Brian Hoyer on Tuesday, catching one and having another pass broken up by rookie Keion Crossen. Though Decker understands chunks of the offense, it may be a little while before the coaching staff hands him more extensive repetitions with Brady and other offensive regulars.

The 31-year-old is sharing the workload at receiver with Hogan, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Paul Turner and Devin Lucien. Once Kenny Britt is fully healthy, there will be another added layer of competition. 

Decker isn't a lock to make the Patriots for Week 1, but his roster spot is one he's craved for some time. Given his history, it made too much sense. 

"It’s a place, really all offseason, I would love to end up," he said. "I’m kind of happy it worked out the way it did."


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