New England Patriots: Zach Sudfeld

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 13

December, 4, 2013
Every Wednesday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a quick recap of notable former New England Patriots players and their standing with new teams.

Jake Ballard (Cardinals)
Tight end plays four offensive snaps and six on special teams in a 24-21 road loss to the Eagles. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Has been with the Cardinals for four games since signing Nov. 4, playing 53 of 281 snaps and totaling two catches for 44 yards.

Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Safety starts and plays all 71 snaps in a 24-21 home win over the Cardinals. Has one pass defended.
Season snapshot: Has started six of 12 games and is credited with 36 tackles.

Jermaine Cunningham (Jets)
Outside linebacker plays six defensive snaps and 11 on special teams in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Spent the month of October with the 49ers but never appeared in a game. Signed with the Jets on Nov. 20. He dressed Nov. 24 but didn't play, so the Dolphins game was his debut.

Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Defensive tackle plays 23 of 75 snaps in 32-28 road win over the Browns. Totals one tackle.
Season snapshot: Has played 288 total snaps, totaling eight tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

A.J. Francis (Dolphins)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 23-3 road win over the Jets.
Season snapshot: Signed off the Patriots' practice squad Nov. 26,

Kyle Love (Chiefs)
Defensive tackle is inactive in a 35-28 home loss to the Broncos.
Season snapshot: After spending training camp with the Jaguars and being released before the season opener, he signed with the Chiefs on Nov. 19. Appeared in one game, playing two snaps, before being waived Dec. 3.

Greg Salas (Jets)
Receiver is targeted four times and makes one catch in a 23-3 home loss to the Dolphins. Plays 30 of 55 snaps.
Season snapshot: In four games with the Jets since making his debut Nov. 3, he has seven catches for 137 yards. Has played 118 of 231 offensive snaps in those games.

Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Plays seven snaps on offense and 15 on special teams but doesn't register on the stat sheet.
Season snapshot: Tight end has played 103 offensive snaps in seven games. Has four catches for 56 yards.

Jeff Tarpinian (Texans)
Linebacker plays in a reserve role in a 34-31 home loss to the Patriots, totaling two tackles and a half-sack. Plays 27 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: After signing with the Texans on Oct. 28, has played in four games, totaling 12 tackles on defense. Has played 92 of 271 defensive snaps.

Leon Washington (Titans)
Wearing No. 26, he is the primary kickoff returner and punt returner in a 22-14 road loss to the Colts, totaling three kickoff returns for 78 yards (26.0 avg.) and two punt returns for 43 yards (21.5 avg.), with two fair catches. Doesn't play on offense.
Season snapshot: Released by the Patriots on Nov. 23; signed with the Titans on Nov. 26.

Wes Welker (Broncos)
Receiver finishes with three catches for 38 yards as his presence draws attention and opens things up for fellow receiver Eric Decker to have a big day in a 35-28 road win over the Chiefs. Plays 63 of 70 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has played 722 of 906 offensive snaps (79.6 percent), and has 68 catches for 717 yards and nine touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back has seven carries for 22 yards and adds two catches for 13 yards in a 17-10 home loss to the Bengals. Plays 27 of 65 snaps.
Season snapshot: Has 61 receptions for 482 yards and five TDs, and has carried the ball 77 times for 288 yards and two TDs. Has played 384 offensive snaps.

Others: Colts starting guard Donald Thomas landed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 2. ... Defensive end Trevor Scott played four games (54 snaps) with the Buccaneers before he was released Oct. 24. ... Punter Zoltan Mesko was released by the Steelers on Oct. 29 after appearing in seven games and ranking 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7). ... Quarterback Brian Hoyer started two games for the Browns, leading them to two wins, before tearing his ACL in his third start and landing on season-ending injured reserve.

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 5

October, 9, 2013
Every Wednesday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a quick recap of some notable former New England Patriots players and their standing with new teams.

Patrick Chung (Eagles)
Misses his second straight game, a victory over the Giants, with a shoulder injury.
Season snapshot: Has started three of five games and is credited with 18 tackles.

Jermaine Cunningham (49ers)
After reaching an injury settlement with the Patriots at the end of the preseason, defensive end/outside linebacker signs with the 49ers on Oct. 1.
Season snapshot: Wearing jersey No. 50, he has yet to play in a game.

Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars)
Plays 33 snaps and totals three tackles in road loss to the Rams.
Season snapshot: Has played 122 total snaps; has totaled seven tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery.

Brian Hoyer (Browns)
Quarterback tears his ACL in his third start and is out for the season.
Season snapshot: Led the Browns to two wins in two starts before his injury; 57-of-96 for 615 yards with 5 TDs and 3 INTs.

Zoltan Mesko (Steelers)
Bye week after the Steelers had dropped to 0-4 in loss to Vikings in London.
Season snapshot: 20 punts for 41.9 average (31st in NFL) and 37.6 net (27th in NFL)

Trevor Scott (Buccaneers)
Bye week.
Season snapshot: 45 total snaps at defensive end.

Zach Sudfeld (Jets)
Claimed on waivers on Oct. 4
Season snapshot: Wearing jersey No. 44, tight end was inactive for Monday's win over the Falcons.

Donald Thomas (Colts)
Lands on season-ending injured reserve after injuring his quadriceps in Week 2 home loss to Dolphins.
Season snapshot: Was opening-day starter at left guard and now faces long rehab.

Wes Welker (Broncos)
Five catches for 49 yards and one touchdown in 51-48 win over Cowboys; plays 73 of 79 snaps.
Season snapshot: Receiver has played 275 of 373 offensive snaps (73.7 percent), and has 31 catches for 315 yards and seven touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead (Chargers)
Running back plays 45 of 72 snaps in road loss to Raiders and totals nine rushes for 13 yards, and adds nine receptions for 58 yards and TD. Also fumbles (returned for TD) and is stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Season snapshot: Is second on the team with 31 receptions (for 220 yards and 3 TDs), and has carried the ball 28 times for 103 yards. Has played 154 offensive snaps.

Sharing thoughts on Sudfeld, now with Jets

October, 4, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing a few thoughts on tight end Zach Sudfeld, who was waived by the Patriots on Thursday, being claimed by the Jets on Friday:

During Friday's media access period in the locker room, Sudfeld's locker remained intact. That seemed to be an indication that the Patriots hoped to bring Sudfeld back on the practice squad if he cleared waivers.

At the same time, the Patriots had to figure the chances of Sudfeld clearing were no sure thing. He had shown flashes in the preseason that would catch the attention of most teams who might have a need, or a luxury of time to develop him with a spot on the 53-man roster.

The Patriots, in part due to needs at other positions on the 53-man roster (e.g. defensive tackle), no longer had that luxury.

This highlights the balance that every team navigates between present needs and future potential.

Sudfeld clearly has promise and his August emergence in the preseason was highlighted in this space. In truth, I think his early preseason performance surprised the Patriots to a degree, as they initially projected he would probably take a year to develop. The timeline, at that point, had been accelerated.

But something happened in the transition from preseason to regular season, and suddenly, the game looked a bit too big for Sudfeld at times. He didn't record a regular-season reception, there was an interception on a pass intended for him in the season opener, and he was unable to field an onside kick in a Sept. 29 game against the Falcons.

With the Patriots not using as many two-TE sets, instead favoring a three-WR package, we started to forecast Sudfeld's dimishing role last week. Furthermore, because he's more of a receiver than a pure tight end, his value on the 53-man roster was transitioning to more about future potential than present contributions (he played just eight snaps Sunday night against the Falcons).

To sum it up, if the Patriots didn't have to address pressing issues related to winning games in the present, Sudfeld would probably still be on the roster in a "red-shirt" type role, likely as a game-day inactive.

But at this time, it was a luxury the Patriots felt they couldn't afford.

Time will tell if it's a decision they come to regret.

Patriots release TE Zach Sudfeld

October, 3, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots announced the release of rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on Thursday, which could be an indication Rob Gronkowski is set to return.

Sudfeld, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada who had a surprise emergence in training camp, didn't carry the momentum he had generated in the preseason into the regular season. He was used sparingly in Sunday night's 30-23 win against the Atlanta Falcons, playing eight snaps, and couldn't corral an onside kick that was recovered by the Falcons late in the fourth quarter.

If he clears waivers, he will likely return on the team's practice squad.

At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Sudfeld is more of a receiver than a pure tight end. The first indication that he might be on shaky ground came when the Patriots started using four-year veteran Michael Hoomanawanui in the role eyed for Sudfeld -- the "move" tight end in the three-receiver package. Sudfeld played 17 snaps in the season-opener, missed the team's Sept. 12 win against the Jets with a hamstring, and then played 19 snaps against the Buccaneers on Sept. 22 before he was hardly on the field Sept. 29 versus the Falcons. He didn't record a catch this season.

The Patriots currently have Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan as tight ends on the roster.

Positional groupings: Pats favor 3rd WR

September, 27, 2013
One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings utilized by the New England Patriots' offense, as they reveal player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

Here is the big takeaway through three games: The usage of multiple-tight-end packages is down considerably compared to the past two seasons. Here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 232 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 142 of 232
2 backs: 61 of 232
2 or more TEs: 51 of 232

There is a 22-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.

Four-year veteran Michael Hoomanawanui is playing most of the tight-end snaps.

When the Patriots added a second tight end last Sunday, it was either rookie Zach Sudfeld or veteran Matthew Mulligan. Sudfeld is more of a receiver-type, while Mulligan is more of a pure blocker. Because each of them trends clearly in one direction, it makes the Patriots a bit more predictable when they are in the game in multiple-tight-end packages.

So with a heavy focus on the passing game the first three weeks, it has essentially come down to a third receiver (most recently Aaron Dobson) being deemed more valuable than Sudfeld.

When Rob Gronkowski returns, it makes sense to think we could see an increase in multiple-tight-end groupings.

Positional groupings: Disappearing TE

September, 20, 2013
One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings utilized by the New England Patriots' offense, as they can reveal player value and take us deeper into the Xs and Os of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

Through two games, one theme that stands out is how the team known for its two-TE offense has gone away from it without Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 159 offensive snaps (including penalties):

3 or more WRs: 89-of-159
2 backs: 46-of-159
2 or more TEs: 38-of-159

There is a 14-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.

A few takeaways:

Adds context to stats. As noted by ESPN's Stats & Information this week, Patriots tight ends rank last in the NFL in receptions, yards and drop percentage, and 31st in targets. Part of the reason this is the case is that the Patriots aren't using the tight end as heavily as they have in the past. Michael Hoomanawanui has been the workhorse, with 140 of 159 snaps played. He's a dependable player who was never known as a big pass-catcher (career high 13 catches in 2010). After that, it's a big drop-off, with offensive-lineman-reporting-eligible Nate Solder (19), rookie Zach Sudfeld (19) and Matthew Mulligan (10) taking the tight end snaps.

Third receiver a better matchup than second tight end. In playing the majority of their snaps with three receivers, it reflects how the Patriots view a No. 3 receiver (Julian Edelman in the opener; Aaron Dobson in Week 2) as a better fit than a second tight end. This generally sets up a matchup against the opponent's sub defense.

Fullback presence notable. The Patriots are using fullback James Develin in place of a second tight end more than we've seen in recent years. The ability to move Develin around the formation (in the backfield, split wide, on the line of scrimmage) has been tapped in place of a second tight end at times. Hard to imagine that would be happening if the Gronkowski-Hernandez combo was on the field.

Pats' Amendola, Gronkowski limited

September, 18, 2013

Wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) were among seven Patriots who were limited due to injury during Wednesday's practice. Matthew Slater (wrist) was the lone injury-related absence.

Amendola has been at practice both days this week but has worked gingerly through drills in limited reps. Gronkowski, meanwhile, continues his rehab and appears to be nearing a return, perhaps as soon as this week; ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder reported he is 50-50 to play this Sunday.

Slater reportedly suffered a broken wrist during the Week 2 win over the Jets, an injury the team will have to keep in mind in particular as it relates to their special teams, which Slater is a captain of. Cornerback Marquice Cole was also not at practice Wednesday, though the team said it was not injury related.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was an addition to the injury report with a finger injury that was sustained against the Jets last Thursday night.

Tight end Zach Sudfeld appears closer to a return; he was a full participant in practice after missing Week 2 with a hamstring injury.

Monday practice report for Patriots-Jets

September, 9, 2013
With the New England Patriots preparing for a Thursday night game against the New York Jets, the team is required to release an injury report two days earlier than the norm, and running back Shane Vereen was listed as not having participated in practice due to a wrist injury.

This comes after Fox Sports reported that Vereen required surgery on the wrist and is expected to be out for a few weeks.

Elsewhere, receiver Danny Amendola was listed as limited with a groin injury. He had left Sunday’s season-opener late in the second quarter injured before returning in the second half.

Also, running back Brandon Bolden (knee), receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring), safety Nate Ebner (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), safety Duron Harmon (hamstring), tight end Zach Sudfeld (hamstring), offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee) and running back Leon Washington (thigh) were listed as limited.

Sudfeld was limited to four snaps in the second half of Sunday’s season opener, three of which came on the Patriots’ final drive.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 1

September, 9, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the New England Patriots' 23-21 season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills:

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
Bill Wippert/AP PhotoPatriots running back Stevan Ridley did not get off to the stellar start he'd hoped for in Week 1.
Ridley’s place on running back depth chart: In 2012, Stevan Ridley played a team-high 45 percent of the Patriots’ running back snaps, and he appeared poised to reach a similar number this year based on the preseason and Sunday’s game in which he started. But a near-fumble in the first quarter (he was ruled down by officials), then a lost fumble in the second quarter that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown landed him a seat on the bench for the rest of the game. Does Ridley assume the No. 1 duties again Thursday night against the Jets? If not, it’s LeGarrette Blount or Shane Vereen.

Amendola’s groin injury and his availability: Receiver Danny Amendola left Sunday’s game at the end of the second quarter with a groin injury before returning in the third quarter. His gutsy, clutch performance drew raves. But after the game, Amendola was guarded about his condition and whether it might affect his availability for Thursday's game. “Right now, I just feel good about the win; that’s all that really matters to me,” he said. “We’ll figure everything else out later.”

Brady and the inconsistent passing game: For those used to seeing an explosive Tom Brady-led passing game, Sunday’s struggle was a bit of a culture shock. The inexperience of undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld showed up at times, and when Amendola wasn’t on the field, Brady didn’t look as comfortable as Amendola has quickly developed into his Wes Welker-type security blanket. On a related note, second-round draft choice Aaron Dobson (hamstring) didn’t dress for the game, and given some of the struggles in the passing game, his status on the injury report figures to be watched closely.

Can never have enough pass rush: Part of it might have been the Patriots’ willingness to concede extra rushers to keep running back C.J. Spiller and the scrambling ability of quarterback EJ Manuel in check, but the pressure with the standard four rushers didn’t seem to disrupt Manuel enough when he was in the pocket surveying the field. The starting defensive line of left end Rob Ninkovich, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork and right end Chandler Jones can’t be thrilled with the zero in the sack column on Sunday.

W2W4: Five things we'll be focused on

September, 6, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Call it the final countdown. The regular season has kicked off for two teams, with just two more days until the Patriots take the field against the Bills in Buffalo (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS).

After an unusual offseason that saw countless unforeseen twists and turns, the Patriots are likely as ready as ever to get back on the field and begin the process of achieving their ultimate goal.

There are new faces aplenty in the receiver corps, while the defense looks much like the group from last season. The coaching staff is virtually unchanged, with Bill Belichick welcoming another familiar face in Brian Daboll back into the mix.

On Sunday, the Patriots have a chance to begin their division title defense against an AFC East foe while also trying to continue their recent dominance of the Bills. In fact, quarterback Tom Brady is 20-2 against the Bills in his career, a mark he hopes to further improve upon this weekend.

With kickoff right around the corner, here are five things we’ll be watching for when the Patriots take on the Bills.

1. Does preseason success translate into the regular season for receiving corps? Indications from the preseason are that the Patriots pass-catchers will hold up just fine, as Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld and others have looked very much in sync with Brady. But the regular season is a new test and all eyes will be on this group -- particularly the rookies making their NFL debuts. If the Patriots hope to repeat their offensive success from last season, there can be no easing period for the new wideouts in New England.


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2. Can the secondary stay on the arc of progression? The Patriots secondary picked it up down the stretch in 2012, and with several pieces in place again this season, improvement is expected. It looks like the same starters from the end of 2012 will get the nod this season, with Kyle Arrington as the top reserve cornerback followed by Logan Ryan. It seems plausible that the third safety will be another third-rounder from Rutgers, as Duron Harmon may have leapfrogged Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner on the depth chart. This group needs to build off of its momentum from 2012.

3. Disrupting Manuel. In 17 games against rookie quarterbacks, the Patriots are 13-4 under Bill Belichick (all four losses, incidentally, have come on the road). They’ll have another first-year test in EJ Manuel, the top quarterback picked in this year’s draft and the hopeful franchise player in Buffalo for the future. While Manuel is considered a polished prospect, how much the Patriots will be able to disrupt and confuse him with multiple looks will, at least in part, dictate his NFL debut. Don’t be surprised to see the Patriots bring the heat with extra rushers.

4. Rotations at RB, TE, LB. From the more under-the-radar category, there’s some intrigue in how the team rotates its players at three positions: running back, tight end and linebacker. At tight end, supposing Rob Gronkowski is unable to play, how might the Patriots deploy their duo of healthy bodies? Will Sudfeld play the predominant number of snaps, or will it be a more balanced workload? At running back, it appears Shane Vereen will be cast in the role Danny Woodhead played last season, with LeGarrette Blount as a backup to workhorse Stevan Ridley. As it relates to the linebackers, who will align next to Jerod Mayo in sub defensive packages? Could top draft choice Jamie Collins get the nod, or might it be Brandon Spikes/Dont'a Hightower, as it was last season? Dane Fletcher could be in the mix, too.

5. Special-teams notes. The Patriots have a new punter for the first time since 2010, and it’s a test for rookie Ryan Allen to show he’s ready for NFL action. Beyond his punting responsibilities, Allen will be called upon to hold on the field goal team. That’s an underrated chore that he must show he’s capable to do consistently. On the kickoff return team, might we see Blount step up into the role that the team struggled with in 2012? If so, he’d qualify as one of the bigger return men in recent NFL action. Finally, the Patriots have no shortage of punt return options, including Amendola and Edelman, who is the only player to have a punt return for a score in each of the past three seasons.

Picked-up pieces around Patriots

September, 5, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some picked-up pieces from around the Patriots on Thursday:

1. Collins anxious, but ready. Top Patriots draft choice Jamie Collins is readying for his first NFL regular-season action, and the 23-year old can't wait to take the field on Sunday.

"Just anxious," the linebacker said of his first regular-season game. "I'm anxious to play, get out here and see what this regular season is all about."

After being worked on both defense and special teams, including several different defensive spots, Collins said that he's planning to take on any role the coaching staff has in mind for him. "I'm the type of guy that's going to do -- wherever they put me at, I'm going to go do it to the best of my abilities because I'm a team player. No matter what it is, I'm going to do it. No matter if it's quarterback, I'm going to go out there and play."

And while Orchard Park, NY might feel like a world away from Collins' hometown of McCall Creek, Miss., Collins knows his supporters back home will find a way to watch his game on TV.

"They're going to find it," he said. "No matter where it is, they'll find it."

2. Kelly and Ninkovich hold court. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and defensive end Rob Ninkovich were among the players drawing bigger media crowds, giving this day a real “defensive” feel.

One of the topics brought up to Kelly was how he was coming off the field in some sub situations in the preseason, and if he felt was ready to play an entire game if need be. He said he used to do that in Oakland, adding, “this ain’t my first rodeo.” He added that while Bills quarterback EJ Manuel can make plays with his feet, he wouldn't exactly compare him to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Ninkovich touched on how he complements fellow starting end Chandler Jones (Ninkovich is a lower-leverage player) as well as the importance of keeping Manuel in the pocket and not giving him big rush lanes.

3. White letting the coaches do the scouting. Linebacker Chris White, recently acquired via waivers, knows the Bills well, having spent two-plus seasons in Buffalo (2011 sixth-round pick) before being traded to Detroit last month. But he's letting his new coaches do the scouting report on the Bills.

"The coaches, they pretty much know a lot," he said on Thursday. "They know a lot by themselves, they really don't need a whole lot of help from me, but I'm sure it'll be a fun week, I'm looking forward to it."

He also noted that he's staying away from communicating with his ex-teammates this week before Sunday's kickoff and “sticking to myself.” For those unfamiliar with White's game, he offered a brief self-scouting report: "I feel like I play hard, I play with a lot of energy, and I prepare well. I'm just looking to win every week."

4. Hoomanawanui: Can't view Sudfeld as a rookie. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has been a popular player for reporters this week. On Sunday, he had been swarmed after Rob Gronkowski's return to the field. On Thursday, he fielded some questions on rookie Zach Sudfeld, who projects to a significant role as the team’s top “move” tight end.

"Everyone's played a lot of football. Zach is a rookie, but he's been here long enough, and he's played in enough preseason games, where you have to throw that out the window," he said.

Hoomanawanui has been impressed with how Sudfeld has grapsed the offense, adding that "he's doing a great job asking questions and following older veterans and taking their lead."

Patriots eligible for practice squad

August, 31, 2013
Later today, the New England Patriots will finalize the first iteration of their 53-man roster. But the player puzzle doesn’t end there, as the team will begin constructing its practice squad, which can be up to eight players, on Sunday.

It would be no surprise for the Patriots to bring aboard players waived by other teams as members of their practice squad, but the unit will also likely include players waived by the team Saturday.

Below is a look at all current Patriots who still have practice-squad eligibility:

P Ryan Allen
DT Armond Armstead (on reserve/PUP)
LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
WR Josh Boyce
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
LB Ja'Gared Davis
S Kanorris Davis
WR Aaron Dobson
DT Marcus Forston
DB Justin Green
DT Cory Grissom (on injured reserve)
S Duron Harmon
WR Mark Harrison (on reserve/PUP)
G Josh Kline
C/G Chris McDonald
CB Logan Ryan
WR Quentin Sims
TE Zach Sudfeld
LB Jeff Tarpinian
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
DT Joe Vellano
RB George Winn
OL Markus Zusevics (on injured reserve)

Source: Patriots to cut TE Jake Ballard

August, 30, 2013
The Patriots have informed veteran tight end Jake Ballard that he will be released today, a source confirms.

The Patriots had waited a year to work with Ballard, who was claimed on waivers from the Giants on June 12, 2012, after undergoing serious knee surgery. Upon his return to the field in 2013 spring camps and then training camp, Ballard said that his knee wasn't back to the point where it was pre-injury, but that he was still working into form. He didn't always appear to be running well.

The 25-year-old played in all four of the team's preseason games, and his primary effectiveness came as an in-line blocker. He didn't catch a pass.

The release of Ballard is a mild surprise, although he did play deep into Thursday night's preseason finale. At the time, it was unclear if that was related to him gaining more comfort with his knee in game action, or if his spot was in jeopardy.

Now we have the answer.

With both Ballard and Daniel Fells told of their release today, the Patriots now have Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui on the roster at tight end. This could be a sign that Gronkowski has a good chance to open the season on the team's 53-man roster.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe first reported the news on Ballard.

Weekly Patriots chat recap

August, 29, 2013
Every Thursday on, there is a New England Patriots chat in the late morning/early afternoon. Today's chat kicked off at noon ET, can be recapped here, and included some of the following topics:

1. Top storylines in Thursday's preseason finale.

2. Cornerback Ras-I Dowling -- another swing and a miss for the Patriots.

3. Rolling Stone article on Aaron Hernandez.

4. Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld -- two rookies set to be part of the Patriots' plans.

5. Tim Tebow and his chances to earn a roster spot.

Picked-up pieces after 2nd-quarter review

August, 23, 2013
After reviewing the second quarter of the Patriots’ 40-9 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions, here are some picked-up pieces and observations:

[+] EnlargeJoe Vellano
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsJoe Vellano is one of five undrafted free agents to make the Patriots' 53-man roster.

1. Looking for signs of life from any of the Patriots’ reserve defensive tackles because of the team’s shortage of depth, I had a few thoughts on the 23 first-unit snaps played by rookie Joe Vellano, who started in place of Vince Wilfork. The highlight came on a second-and-goal rush early in the second quarter on which Matthew Stafford threw incomplete into the end zone, as Vellano (aligned as a 3-technique, outside shade on guard) showed nice initial quickness to beat veteran left guard Rob Sims on a one-on-one rush to the inside. He caught Sims lunging and made him pay. That’s one area in which Vellano has flashed at times in camp -- first-step quickness as a rusher in tight spaces. But other times, Vellano’s relative lack of size (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) was evident against the Lions when he was more easily blocked in the running game (e.g. Montell Owens’ 6-yard run with 7:05 remaining in the quarter). The Patriots are thin at defensive tackle, and Vellano, at the least, looks like a strong practice-squad candidate.

2. The Patriots didn’t have a good night rushing the football, but there were a few positive flashes when fullback James Develin was in the game. Stevan Ridley’s 4-yard run with 12:55 remaining in the quarter came out of the two-back set, as did Ridley’s 5-yard run on the next drive. One of the downers out of the two-back set was a Ridley rush for a 1-yard loss on first-and-10, on which left end Jason Jones was unblocked (likely a busted assignment somewhere). Develin played nine snaps with the first-unit offense and also was inserted on the first-unit kickoff return unit in the wedge. He’s built some momentum over the past two weeks in terms of potentially earning a roster spot. Running out of a two-back set, as compared to a two tight-end set, gives the defense a different look and seems to be something coordinator Josh McDaniels has been interested in incorporating into the attack since his return.

3. Coming into the game, there was plenty of talk about the Lions’ strong defensive tackle duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and they came as advertised. But it was actually the ends who might have produced more havoc, as it was an off night for Patriots tackles Nate Solder (left) and Sebastian Vollmer (right). It’s rare to see Vollmer beaten so cleanly, as he was by Jones with 4:58 remaining in the second quarter. That seemed to be an example of how a simple technique error can lead to a play being blown up, as Vollmer’s pass set didn’t appear deep enough, which gave Jones a clear path to Tom Brady, who had taken a seven-step drop on play-action. The play never had a chance because Jones was there as Brady completed his play-action fake. The Patriots were relying on Vollmer to handle Jones one-on-one because right guard Will Svitek and center Ryan Wendell had doubled Suh. Overall, there seemed to be a lot of pressure off the edges, forcing Brady to step up, where Suh and Fairley were mostly waiting.

4. More of a general point, but we heard Bill Belichick talk last week about how the Patriots have more versatility at cornerback this season than in the past in terms of players who can play inside and outside. A good example of this came on back-to-back series in the second quarter when the Patriots were in the nickel package (five defensive backs). On one series, rookie cornerback Logan Ryan lined up outside, while Kyle Arrington was in the slot. On the next series, Ryan was in the slot (playing competitively on tight end Tony Scheffler) and Arrington was outside.

5. Remember how tight end Rob Gronkowski first broke his forearm, playing the wing position on the field goal protection unit? One line of thinking is that perhaps a different player could fulfill the assignment so as not to subject a top player to additional risk of injury. Belichick, however, hasn’t changed his thinking since Gronkowski’s injury as the Patriots had Chandler Jones in that role on Thursday night.

6. The Patriots were stopped short on fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter when Develin was stopped for no gain. That was the one play of the half on which the offense went with three tight ends (Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and Zach Sudfeld) and then two backs (Develin and Ridley). Sudfeld couldn’t hold his block on Ziggy Ansah, who crossed his face and crashed down the line to make the tackle. We touched on Sudfeld’s blocking earlier in the day as the area to watch for him to become a more complete tight end, and this play stood out as one he’d like to have back. In the regular season, perhaps the Patriots will turn to an offensive lineman as an eligible receiver on that type of play. Also, in fairness to Sudfeld, there was no certainty that Develin would have made the first down had he held his block. The Lions had pretty good push across the board.