New England Patriots tight end Jake Ballardisn’t a lock to make the 53-man roster due to his recovery from a severe knee injury, but he is definitely a near-lock and would be a shocker of a cut. Ballard is proof of just how difficult it is to recover from microfracture surgery, but it’s great to see that his blocking hasn’t deteriorated as a result of the injury. I’m sure his pass-catching ability has, but he should still be a solid tight end. The emergence of Zach Sudfeld means a lesser role for Ballard, but he should get a solid stream of snaps as an in-line tight end and will make Daniel Fells‘s spot on the roster obsolete when Rob Gronkowski is healthy. I like Fells as a blocker and view him as a quality tight end, but the Patriots aren’t keeping five TEs on the roster. Ballard and Fells are battling for that fourth job when Gronk is healthy, and cap space and pass-catching upside mean that this battle is clearly in Ballard’s favor.
Bill Belichick was asked about Jake Ballard during today’s press conference and said this about the former New York Giants TE, “Jake’s been pretty consistent all through camp. He’s been dependable on a day-to-day basis. He’s got some experience. Big guy, long, he’s got good blocking skill. He’s done a good job in the passing game. I think with him, it’s just keeping it day by day. He keeps improving, gains more confidence and he gains more experience, builds up his overall stamina and conditioning. He’s in good condition but just playing football, playing condition. I think we’ve had a good pace with him and he’s been able to have steady improvement through the entire course of camp, which has been good. ”
It’s great to hear that Ballard is progressing well, and Belichick’s praise of Ballard as a blocker is another nice thing to put into the mental “notebook”. Good blocking from Ballard will make it easier for him to beat out Fells, and I don’t anticipate him being cut. He isn’t the player he once was, but it is possible that he improves based on experience and development in other facets of the game. For instance, I am willing to bet that he will be a better blocker going forward than he was in 2011.