The Patriots recently released safety Ross Ventrone from the active roster. This transaction came after the Patriots game against Miami, where apparent needs on the offensive line left depth extremely thin. The Patriots had lost tackle Sebastian Vollmer for numerous weeks, while other tackle Matt Light went down in pregame warm-ups. Guard Logan Mankins slid over to tackle and suffered an MCL sprain early in the game. With three of the best starters out of the line-up (not to mention the revolving door at center), it appeared as if the Patriots were going to replace the roster spot, vacated by Ventrone, with an offensive lineman.
Instead the Patriots seem ready to sign fullback Lousaka Polite. Polite played two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, one season for the Chicago Bears, followed by three seasons for the Miami Dolphins. According to Pro Football Focus, Polite sandwiched two below-average seasons in '08 and '10 with a dominant '09 season. In college, Polite was a three year captain at Pittsburgh, and a four year starter at fullback. The Dolphins released Polite because they drafted rookie Charles Clay, who is a more versatile fullback in the passing game.
The primary value of Polite isn't how he blocks or catches the ball (the typical role of a fullback)- it's how he can power through for first downs. Pro Football Focus marks Polite as one of the worst blocking fullbacks in 2010- but he is a short yardage fiend. Over at The Phinsider, they documented that Polite was asked to run 43 times on 3rd or 4th and 1- and converted 41 of those attempts. While teams look to spread the ball out, Polite will add another element to the Patriots ground game.
Of course, this move isn't a good sign for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. BJGE was the Patriots short yardage back, but has been rendered extremely ineffective as of late. He used to be a guarantee for a first down in short yardage plays, but he's been unable to consistently break the plane. The addition of Polite will most likely mean the end of BJGE as the short yardage back.
In addition, the Patriots have typically used offensive linemen as fullbacks in the goal line packages. Dan Connolly played that role for a few seasons, while Donald Thomas was the fullback this season. However, Thomas will be in the starting line-up as the Patriots rest Logan Mankins.