The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
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 continue the series with rookie tight end Bryce Williams.
Name: Bryce Williams
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 48w
Size: 6’6, 260 lbs.
2015 review: Williams’ 2015 senior season at East Carolina was the best of his four-year college career. The big tight end, who appeared in all 12 of hit team’s games, was the Pirates’ second-most productive receiving option, catching 58 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns.
While Williams was a productive pass catcher, his blocking has been a work in progress – unsurprisingly, given that 2015 was the first year the former wide receiver played the tight end position. Despite his upside and frame, Williams, who was invited to both the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine, was not selected in this year’s draft and instead was signed by the Patriots as a free agent in May.
2016 preview: Earlier in training camp, New England’s head coach Bill Belichick called Williams a "good receiving option". Until that point, the rookie stood out as an able pass catcher and was slowly building some momentum for a run at a backup tight end spot. However, on the same day Belichick praised Williams’ abilities, the 23-year old missed his first practice due to a knee injury he sustained the day before and has neither participated in team drills nor the team's two preseason games since.
The more practice reps and playing time Williams misses because of his injured knee, the farther he falls behind in the race for one of a maximum two spots behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. Consequently – true to the old saying "you can’t make the club from the tub" – Williams’ chances of making the team get slimmer each day.
It would therefore not be a surprise to see other tight ends take the final roster spots and the rookie start his NFL career on either injured reserve (having caught the "Foxboro Flu") or the Patriots’ practice squad. His fortunes could still change but given the depth New England has at the tight end position combined with Williams’ rawness and missed playing time, giving him a year to develop behind the scenes seems like the best and most realistic scenario.
Bryce Williams has been able to show his talents early in camp, at least in flashes. While his chances of making a stacked 2016 roster at the tight end position are slim, he might be a developmental option to keep in the fold – injured reserve or practice squad – and serve as insurance should Bennett leave as a free agent next year.