We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
After all, until the late-August's roster cuts, players need to have secured their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with the team's newest addition.
Name: Andrew Hawkins
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 16
Opening day age: 31
Size: 5’7, 180 lbs.
2016 review: Coming off a season in which he played only eight games due to concussion issues, Hawkins appeared in all 16 of the Cleveland Browns’ contests last year. As the team’s most experienced wide receiver, he spent 647 of a possible 1,030 offensive snaps (62.8%) on the field – second-most of all Browns wideouts.
As has been the case throughout his career, Hawkins was predominately used in the slot, playing 85% of his snaps from the interior. When on the field, the veteran caught 33 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Coincidentally, one of his best games of the season came in week five against the Patriots: Hawkins caught four balls for 56 and a score that day.
While his statistics are not exactly eye-popping, the former CFL standout was an important member of the 2016 Browns on and off the field. After all, he also served as one of the team’s captains. However, the team still opted to release him in February.
2017 preview: On Wednesday, Hawkins announced that the Patriots have signed him to what later turned out to be a one year free agency contract. He joins the team’s deep wide receiver depth chart as its third-oldest member. In order to earn a spot on New England’s 53-man roster, the 31-year old will likely have to beat out the second-oldest: Danny Amendola.
Hawkins, like Amendola, is projected to serve as a situational receiving option working primarily out of the slot. As such, he has his work cut out for him as his main competitor is a four-year veteran in the Patriots’ system, played a key role in the team’s recent Super Bowl victory and is a member of quarterback Tom Brady’s circle of trust.
For Hawkins to beat out Amendola, he therefore needs to quickly establish himself as a reliable receiving option and on special teams, where Amendola also was regularly used in the past. And while he has plenty of experience playing offense at a high level due to his quickness and very good route running, Hawkins saw only minimal playing time on special teams the last three years.
When he was still with the Cincinnati Bengals, however, he saw more snaps as a gunner. The question is if he will be able to crack a rotation with provent entities Matthew Slater, Brandon King and Jonathan Jones ahead of him on the depth chart. As is the case on offense, Hawkins quickly has to carve out a role to make an impression – and by extension ultimately the team.
As things stand right now, though, the numbers game seems to work against him.