Even with Aaron Hernandez gone and Rob Gronkowski potentially on the PUP list, the New England Patriots still have plenty of depth at the tight end position with the likes of Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, Zach Sudfeld, and Brandon Ford. Ballard would most easily replace Gronk in the line-up, and it sounds like, if no major additions happen, Michael Hoomanawanui would most easily replace Hernandez as the “F” tight end (Gronk and Ballard are known as “Y” TEs, but the caveat here is that Gronk also lines up in the slot at times and is much more athletic than Ballard).
According to ESPN Boston’s Field Yates in a great piece on the New England Patriots tight ends, Hoomanawanui could receive a bigger role in the Patriots offense as the direct replacement to Hernandez. The Pats could decide to change their scheme or add a guy like Dallas Clark to be Hernandez’s replacement in the interim, but slotting in Hooman as the “F” TE is also an option. He, like Fells, is a blocking tight end, but both players are better pass catchers than they are given credit for being. Hooman played a lot of H-back for the Pats last season, but an issue is how productive he could be as a pass-catcher. He played well last season and was called upon several times, so there is reason to believe that he is indeed a legitimate option for the Pats.
ESPN Boston’s “Bubble Watch” series is in full force, as Mike Rodak takes a look at the players on the New England Patriots bubble and their chances of making the roster. Yesterday, he did a piece on tackle Markus Zusevics, who is definitely squarely on the Patriots roster bubble. The 2012 UDFA took a “redshirt” last season due to injury, and Zusevics has a chance of making the roster if he can impress at training camp. Rodak gives him a 35% chance of making the roster, and that’s where I would put him.
Zusevics’s roster spot hinges on both what the guards and tackles do. If the Patriots like a guard more, they could list Marcus Cannon as a tackle (he can play at either and is somebody the Patriots are high on) and cut Zusevics. If they like Zusevics more, then they could list Cannon as a guard and keep Zusevics as a tackle. Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, and Will Svitek are locks at tackle, while Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, and Nick McDonald are the locks at guard. Assuming the team keeps four guards and four tackles, Zusevics has a better shot than one might think at making the roster. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the back end of the roster on the offensive line, so this should be an underrated training camp battle to watch for.