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The Patriots Tight End Position Will Clear Up Tomorrow

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The Patriots will know where they stand at the tight end position after tomorrow; hopefully it's standing strong.

Jim Rogash

Remember when the Patriots had a laughable wealth of tight ends last off-season? With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, and Zach Sudfeld at the position, the unit was considered the strongest on the team.

A year later, another surgery for Gronk, a curious extension for Hooman, and the complete evaporation of talent has left the position barren. Yes, Gronk is on schedule to play in week 1, and yes, Hooman is a reliable enough blocker.

But no one would confuse the current depth chart as a position of strength.

As the team currently stands in Washington, they might only field two tight ends during tomorrow's preseason game. The frontrunner for the 3rd tight end position, D.J. Williams, is likely to be inactive due to a leg injury and was seen limping around practice with a brace on his leg.

That leaves the two rookies, 6'8 Justin Jones, and brother-of-Ben Asa Watson as the two potential targets. We can throw fullback James Develin in the fix, as the team will undoubtedly see if they can expand his role, mostly out of necessity.

Jones shows great potentially, if only for his tremendous size, but also for his progression as a player. Despite his length, he's not a great blocker, although all reports show that he's improved throughout camp. He's more of a slot receiver, which could mean significant value in the red zone, should the Patriots try to keep him on the roster or stash him on the practice squad.

Watson flashes the more traditional size of the slot tight end, or of a hybrid fullback/tight end a la the Dolphins Charles Clay. However, he's described as "good, but without any real flash of excellence." He'll do what's asked with minimal mistakes, but he lacks a degree of explosion that would separate him from any ol' tight end the team might find on the streets, or potentiall pick up once roster cuts occur.

With Jones and Watson likely seeing the majority of the field time, we'll feel more certain about the position's status after tomorrow's game. Either they'll shine and make everyone feel more comfortable, or they'll fall flat and the Patriots will be left in a similar situation to last season- without any depth and just hoping that Gronk doesn't get hurt.