Continuing our look at the Patriots 2013 roster, today we will focus on the Patriots' Tight Ends.
Main Tight Ends on the roster:
We'll start with Gronkowski and work our way down.
Gronkowski is facing alot of questions for 2013. Will he be ready to go to start the year? Will he have to sit out the first game? the first six games? These are all valid questions to ask, however, I think that the most important question is whether he will have lingering effects from his multiple arm and most recent back surgery. An infection could recur or he could break the forearm once again if it is not fully healed when he steps back onto the field. This makes him questionable at best to start week 1 against the Bills. Having said this, Gronkowski is still, when healthy, the best Tight End in football. He is a great blocker, can leap for the football with ease, has soft hands, and initiates contact with oncoming defenders. If he has to sit any length of time in 2013, it would be a major blow to the Patriots.
Jake Ballard is a different story and could prove to be a valuable addition to a team that has seen their TE core change dramatically. With the question marks surrounding Gronkowski, and with Hernandez in jail due to multiple murder charges, Ballard may have to play a large role in the offense this year. Ballard is big, stong, has decent blocking ability, and has good hands. He is tough as well, as he tried to play in the super bowl with an acl tear in 2012 before writhing in pain on the sideline. Ballard is a guy that should be heavily relied upon in 2013. If Gronkowski can't go for whatever reason, Ballard may be the number one Tight End on the field for the Patriots come week one.
Michael Hoomanawanui is an intriguing option this year as well for the Patriots. He has a chance to be the number two Tight end if Gronkowski misses any time. If not, he will most likely serve as the number three and could start if either Ballard or Gronk get injured. Not much has been seen from Hoomanawanui in Foxboro as he only caught 7 passes for just over 100 yards last season. Nonetheless, he will be relied upon as depth for a team that has been thinned out at the position after being stacked a year ago.
Daniel Fells may be the odd man out this year at the tight end position when it comes to catches. That is not to say that he will not play, however. He has shown an ability to block pretty well throughout his time in New England and may be called upon more in running situations to do so. This should help Rob Gronkowski avoid unnecessary contact as he recuperates from his multiple surgeries this offseason. Besides blocking, expect Fells to make a special teams contribution and serve as the fourth receiving TE unless he beats out Hoomanawanui, or Hoomanawanui gets injured before the end of camp.