It was hardly a surprise during the 2003 and 2004 seasons when a forty yard kick return was seen in New England. Whether it was piling it on a defeated regular season foe, or gaining key yards against a the hated Colts Bethel Johnson was always an explosive option as a return man. The former second round pick wracked up yardage for the Patriots with his sub 4.3 forty yard dash time but unfortunately for the Patriots that was ten years ago.
Bethel Johnson has been out of the league for more than a few years now but for Patriots fans his impact as a return man will likely never be forgotten. Known mostly for his speed and long strides, and partially for his "bust" draft status, Johnson had unique game changing ability reminiscent of modern day players like Devin Hester or Desean Jackson, but since his departure from New England the Patriots have hardly had an impact player in the return game.
Arguably The last time the Patriots had a return man with top speed it was Brandon Tate, but his inability to impact the game in any way other than as a return man lead to him ultimately getting cut.
Last season it was Legarrette Blount who took over the spot of kick returner in New England and he even had impressive returns at times ( against Buffalo) yet he was missing the top end speed fans have become accustom to out of their return man
With Blount leaving in free agency the New England Patriots are once again looking for a return man that can make an impact, and there is no better player to fill the void than Josh Boyce. The young wide receiver out of TCU seemingly has all the tools to fill the role. At the NFL combine Boyce recorded a 4.38 forty time while also placing tops in broad jump, 3 cone drill, 60 yard shuttle, and interestingly so bench press (per NFL.com). At 5'11'' 205lbs Boyce is an explosive athlete on the football field.
It gets better with Boyce however when you learn that Boyce performed in the combine while still recovering from a broken toe! Injured or not Boyce has the breakaway speed that teams like to see out of their return man, shown perfectly here as he runs past two defenders with ease on route to a 94 yard touchdown catch.
As Fast as Boyce is that won't cut is on a Belichick run roster, as previously stated Ben Tate was a solid return man but was cut for his lack of contribution on offense. Luckily for the Patriots and fans good things are being said about Boyce at early OTA's. Josh Mcdanial has been quoted on Boyce saying: “He’s really put in the time and the effort to put himself in position to compete and really put his best performance on the field. It’s exciting, and we’re glad he’s healthy. He’s in good shape. He’s out there doing a lot of different things... (Via bostonherald.com). Boyce's name has also been associated many times with ter,s like "quick" "hard working" and "dedicated" which bodes well for his chances to make the team.
Ultimately Josh Boyce has a chance to be the impact player the Patriots are looking for based of pure ability alone, but he will need to prove he can do more than just run to earn a roster spot and the opportunity to impress.