Patriots WR Kristian Wilkerson catches two touchdowns after elevation from practice squad
Patience and timing helped New England Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson make the most of his first NFL start.
His two-touchdown performance helped New England clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Wilkerson went undrafted in 2020, but the 24-year-old made the most of his fourth career appearance Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was elevated from the practice squad Friday in place of 2019 first-round draft pick N'Keal Harry, who was a healthy scratch.
"I was ready to go," Wilkerson said. "I prepared all year for this."
Immediately making an impact as a reliable target for rookie quarterback Mac Jones, Wilkerson had three catches for 22 yards and his first career touchdown in the first half.
By the end of the game, he had outperformed Harry's entire season. Harry had not recorded a touchdown in 11 games with the Patriots.
"The chemistry is always there. It's about staying focused and being ready when the moment comes," Wilkerson said after the game. "I love playing with Mac and playing for Mac. He's a leader."
Jones found Wilkerson again in the third quarter on a deep pass for a 20-yard touchdown connection. Wilkerson finished the day with four receptions on eight targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
The performance helped the Patriots overcome a two-game skid and defeat Jacksonville 50-10.
Fellow receiver Jakobi Meyers also had a career-defining performance Sunday. The third-year Patriot made eight catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. He increased his career-high receiving yards total for the season to 796.
Meyers also signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Unlike Wilkerson, he became a regular part of the Patriots receiving corps in 2020. Knowing what it's like to go undrafted, Meyers was happy to see Wilkerson in the spotlight.
"It was amazing, honestly," Meyers said after the game. "To see where he came from, undrafted, guys doubting you. He comes in every day at 6 a.m. and works. To see him go out and make plays, it was amazing to see.”
Wilkerson said Meyers is part of his success.
“That’s my brother. He’s the best teammate. He really took me in," Wilkerson said. "He is one of the smartest guys I've been around football-wise. I could go on and on talking about Jakobi — great player, great teammate, great person. I love him.”
Despite his breakout performance, Wilkerson isn't ready to rest on his laurels.
"The catch was good, but I have to work harder to catch everything that comes my way," he said.