The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll analyze fullback James Develin.
Name: James Develin
Jersey number: 46
Size: 6'3, 255 lbs.
2015 review: James Develin’s 2015 season was over before it even began. The fullback broke his tibia in the Patriots’ third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. After the surgery, the team placed the veteran on season-ending injured reserve.
Prior to his injury, Develin, who has had a solid 2014 season and whose chances of making the team again looked good, appeared in all of the Patriots’ preseason games. He caught two passes for 17 yards in the three exhibition contests he was part of.
2016 preview: After the rehabilitation process and a one-year contract extension – he became a restricted free agent this offseason –, Develin was back on the practice fields this spring. As has been the case in the past, the fullback spent time and reps with the tight ends during OTAs and minicamp.
With the Patriots’ having only two pure fullbacks on the roster – Develin and Joey Iosefa – the 27-year old’s fiercest competition for a roster spot might very well come from the aforementioned tight ends. Therefore, Develin not only needs to beat out Iosefa, he also needs to fight off at least two of the four backup tight ends Clay Harbor, A.J. Derby, Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams.
Given his experience, spring performances and the fact that New England’s best skill position blocker from last season – Michael Williams – has been placed on injured reserve, Develin’s chances of making the team look good. It all depends on a) whether or not he can continue fighting his way back and b) how the Patriots’ coaching staff plans to compose its tight end and running back depth charts.
Still, as things currently stand, the fullback position and with it the lead blocking role are projected to be Develin’s to lose.
New England’s running game struggled mightily in 2015. While the most cited reasons are bad offensive line play and bad injury luck at the running back position, Develin’s broken tibia might also have been a contributing factor.
After all, he was a very good blocker the prior season and would definitely have helped last year. If he gets his 2014 form back – and spring practices indicate he is on his way to do so –, not only will he make the team but once again be a vital part of the Patriots’ rushing attack.