Re: How is Jake Ballard looking now?
posted at 6/27/2013 7:13 AM EDT
In response to zbellino's comment:
Well, he certainly isn't as dynamic as Hernandez, but he is a solid #2 if healthy. Pats will take a hit in most fields, but then again, if Ballard is healthy and the starter (he is the putative #2 in a 2TE base offense) then they DO gain something in blocking.
They'll have to adjust, because Ballard isn't going to be able to run the psuedo-WR routes AH had been filling out, but they will be able to keep a lot of the traditional 2TE routes intact.
Here is an interesting piece from Matt Williamson on the topic.
I'm actually more interested in the other of the walking wounded TE crew, Zach Sudfeld. The way he was used in the pistol (as a downfield WR, sometimes out of the backfield, and with a lot of blocking assignments) is close to what NE does with a lot of its TE assignements, many of which are reassigned FB/H-back routes of yore. He did have six different surguries at Nevada, but he is also a great athlete (unlike Ballard) who starred in a number of other sports like tennis, track, and basketball in high school.
Ballard is solid fundamentally, and is a ho-hum athlete at 6'5" 255 ... but Sudfeld's 6'7" with 4.74 speed can't be taught, and he had a great breakout final season in college that might just be a taste of what he can do.
The fact that Reiss and a handful of others notice him sort of drawing attention in camp is promising as well.
I think we have enough depth and quality at TE (assuming Gronk is healthy). The question (which I think you and the article both raise) is whether we can run the two TE offense that we used so much the past few years. That required two excellent receiving TEs (one of whom, Gronk, was also an exceptional blocker and one of whom, Hern, was almost a wideout). I think we may see more one TE sets in the future, with a WR or even a back (like Vereen) taking Hern's spot. The alternative is we become more of a running team and use the second TE more as a blocker than receiver, but I think that's less likely. It certainly would be a huge shift from where we've been recently, and I don't see BB making that shift unless it turns out we don't have enough decent receivers (which is a possibility, since so much is untested).