The New England Patriots should be getting Rob Gronkowski back at around Week 4, but Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui have the tight end position locked down until Gronk comes back. Sudfeld was one of the biggest steals in undrafted free agency (the Patriots added another one of those huge steals in wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins), and he had an excellent preseason with his Week 2 performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being a clear highlight day for him. The Nevada product still needs to get used to blocking in the NFL, but he was an excellent blocker in the Pistol offense. Sudfeld’s emergence and Gronk’s progressing health were likely two factors in the Patriots feeling comfortable in releasing both Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells, and Sudfeld should do a great job as the Patriots starting tight end once Gronkowski comes back.
Even when Gronk comes back, Zach Sudfeld should still have a significant role in the Patriots offense. Back at Nevada, Sudfeld actually spent most of his time catching passes out of the slot, so he can be a versatile weapon in the Patriots offense and fill in Aaron Hernandez‘s role in the offense as the Pats “move” tight end.
Rob Gronkowski returned to the practice field yesterday in full pads, and Sudfeld got his first chance to practice with Gronk. Sudfeld has been called a “baby Gronk” by Boston Globe beat writer Ben Volin, and a few others have drawn similarities between both players. While I view both TEs as having different skill-sets, there are some similarities between them. Here’s what Sudfeld told the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian about practicing with Gronkowski, ‘It was great. It was very cool to see him out there. This is the first time I’ve been able to practice and have him be out there. It was a great experience.’’
Ryan Allen secured the New England Patriots punting job over incumbent Zoltan Mesko, and the move was mostly a financial decision. Mesko was set to make three times more than Allen, and it’s telling that a punter as good as Mesko (he could easily start for several teams out there) went unclaimed through waivers. Not many punters on a one-year deal set to make $1.323 million get claimed off of waivers, as was the case for Mesko.
But the fact that this was a financial decision shouldn’t take away from Allen, who clearly looks like a starting-caliber punter. With some added experience, Allen could become one of the best punters in the league. A back-to-back Ray Guy winner at Louisiana Tech in college, Allen boasts a very powerful leg. Experience will allow him to have the kind of accuracy Mesko showed, and it will also hopefully aid Allen’s hang time. Mesko did a better job than Allen this offseason, but Allen also played very well. Add that to the fact that he makes significantly less money than Mesko, and there’s a reason why the Patriots felt the drop-off in skill wasn’t worth the added money.
Here’s what Allen said about the competition, via CSNNE, “Zoltan was a great, great competitor, great guy. I learned a lot from him. I’m good friends with him and it was great to be under him and [kicker Steve Gostkowski] and [long snapper Danny Aiken], and have them show me how things are done in the NFL. Just how to carry yourself as a professional — whether it’s warming up, whether it’s afterwards, taking care of your body.”