In what seems to have become a weekly occurrence, the New England Patriots went out and signed another tight end yesterday, acquiring Michael Hoomanawanui from the Redskins' practice squad. In some ways, the move makes sense, as Visanthe Shiancoe has been struggling with a hamstring injury all season and it was just a matter of time before the team sent him over to short-term IR per the league's new rules. Hoomanawanui also spent time with the Rams, and so he is clearly a guy that Josh McDaniels knows and values. On the other hand, you have to wonder how much of an impact Hoomanawanui is going to have and whether or not he is only there to provide depth should Gronk, Hernandez, or Fells get hurt before Shiancoe is eligible to return. I don't know a whole lot about Hoomanawanui, so I did some research last night in an attempt to break down what his strengths and weaknesses are, and how I think he's going to fit into the Patriots offense.
But before I get into any of that, though: this guy needs a nickname, and he needs one now. There's simply no way I'm going to keep typing out his full last name every time I want to talk about him. I was up late last night watching the Giants lose to the Cowboys and once again questioning why - OH WHY - do Giants receivers only catch passes from Eli Manning when he closes his eyes and hucks it into double coverage, and so my creative juices aren't really flowing this morning. So until I think of or hear a better nickname, I'll be referring to him as "Hooma." It was either that or "Wanui," and that just sounds like a term that new parents would use when their newborn destroys a diaper.
Analysis after the jump.
Strengths: At 6'4", 265, Hooma has the height and the size to be a legit red-zone threat. He's also a very solid blocker and can be an asset in the running game. He has big, strong hands and can catch the ball away from his body. Ran a 4.7 40, which is only .02 slower than Rob Gronkowski, so he has decent speed for a big guy. He knows Josh McDaniels' system and shouldn't have too long an adjustment period before he is able to contribute.
Weaknesses: Hooma battled injuries throughout his career, starting in college, and has had trouble staying on the field. And while he has ability, he never became the consistent playmaker that the Rams were hoping to get when they took him in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft. Hooma was used primarily as a blocker and thus became a bit one-dimensional as a player, raising questions as to how valuable he'll be in a Patriots system that demands versatility in its tight ends.
How will the Patriots use him? While the odds are high that Hooma is on the team primarily for depth at this point and won't see too much of the field, you can't discredit his blocking abilities, and thus he could see some time in Jumbo packages and on the goal line. I can also see Belichick shifting him into a fullback role on short yardage situations. New England now has the ability to operate out of a heavy 2 TE set with Gronk and Fells on the line and Hernandez in the backfield with Hooma lined up as fullback in front of him. If that formation isn't capable of gaining 2 yards on 3rd and 1, then I don't know what is. While Hooma may very well be a stopgap tight end until Shiancoe returns, he does have value to this team, and if anyone can get the most out of his skillset, it's Belichick and McDaniels.