New England Patriots UDFA Isaiah Zuber is getting a chance to be one of Cam Newton’s weapons — here’s what he brings to the table.
When the Patriots broke camp, we certainly hadn’t learned much about the various unknowns they planned to surround Cam Newton with on offense.
Heck, Mohamed Sanu was still a significant “part of the plan” in the eyes of many all August (though not in the eyes of the front office, of course).
Damiere Byrd, who’s ended up ranging anywhere from an offensive decoy to a prime target through Week 3, was widely assumed to be a security blanket for Newton, based on their familiarity from Carolina. But beyond Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Byrd, you couldn’t confidently predict the opportunities that would be available in Week 2, let alone as the season concluded.
Therefore, the fact that the offense bent over backward to get UDFA Isaiah Zuber involved in Week 3 proves there are plenty of reins available for him to snatch in the games to come. And the way he was utilized proves the team is maximizing his talents rather than force-feeding him an offense he didn’t fit in during camp.
If Cam Newton really is right about all the weapons he needs existing in that locker room, then surprises like Zuber will need to become the norm.
Along with fellow UDFA running back JJ Taylor, who complemented Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead brilliantly in their breakout game, Zuber worked well out of the backfield, running a jet sweep on his very first carry, employing his athleticism in a controllable environment.
In a few weeks’ time, this role could be seized by a returning Gunner Olszewski, who offers similar versatility in the return game and on gadget plays. But the Pats paid Zuber more than any other undrafted wideout, and chose him over Miami’s Jeff Thomas, for a reason.
Patriots wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi addressed the use of Zuber on Tuesday, and admitted the team likes the evolution they’ve seen since an up-and-down camp.
"“I think that’s the most thing I can say about Isaiah is he’s given what he earns and he was given an opportunity to play in this past game, and he definitely earned it from his work ethic and his eagerness to get better every day in practice.”"
Clearly, there’s something there. After an offseason unlike any other, without the opportunity to impress during preseason play, any undrafted free agent who succeeds obviously made significant hay during practice.
Perhaps Zuber will simply hold the fort until Gunner is able to return. But while he’s here, it’s clear the Pats plan to use him creatively.