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Hard falls and all, Patriots seeing where undrafted tight end Jacob Hollister ‘can get to’

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Jacob Hollister retrieved his second regular-season catch Sunday in Foxborough.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Soon after he stomped his feet on a five-yard curl against the New Orleans Saints last week, Jacob Hollister became the first undrafted New England Patriots tight end to catch a pass in his true rookie season since head coach Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000.

Matt Lengel, who had two grabs for 22 yards and a touchdown in 2016, spent the entirety of his first season in the league on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad. Zach Sudfeld, meanwhile, appeared in three games in 2013 and went without a reception. And Jermaine Wiggins, who signed with the New York Jets as a rookie free agent in 1999, secured two for four yards and a TD for New York before joining the Patriots in the midst of 2000.

So, in some sense, Hollister had already broken new ground before the 1 p.m. ET kickoff hit this Sunday.

The 23-year-old Wyoming product just added to it.

Active for his second career regular-season game, Hollister collected his second career pass. It went for 19 yards from quarterback Tom Brady. And it was well-earned, even reminiscent of the reception from Jimmy Garoppolo he hung onto in the preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

On this particular second-and-6 with 13:12 remaining in the third quarter versus the Houston Texans, Hollister faced another mid-air collision. It wasn’t Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson greeting him this time, but veteran Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph. It wasn’t a dead spot in coverage, but a pass destined for a boom.

Gravity returned with a long fall to the turf for Hollister. No. 47 went about the catch process as if that would be the case.

A brief exit was followed by a return as Hollister got the green light from the medical staff. And that 19-yarder from the seam held up as his lone catch in New England’s last-second, 36-33 victory over Houston.

But it reinforced what has been seen previously from the 6-foot-4, 239-pound target. He's been kind of like his plays: worth holding onto.

“Yeah, well, Jake's getting better,” Belichick said in his postgame press conference, via Patriots.com. “Again, he's come a long way since the start of training camp. It's been a big jump for him, but he's worked hard.”

Working hard and landing hard, Hollister now stands with two catches for 24 yards this campaign. Dwayne Allen stands with none and Rob Gronkowski stands with 16 for 238 yards and two scores.

Hollister won’t soon be assuming the opportunities of the latter. He’s not cut out to take over the blocking role of the former, either. But the rookie hasn’t looked out of place amongst New England’s trio of tight ends. As far as third options go, and ones who also factor into special teams, he’s been up to the task.

“Coach [Nick] Caley spent a lot of time with him,” added Belichick. “Rob, Dwayne – he's working with a good group there of teammates and getting a lot of attention from the coaching staff. He's improving every day, works hard in practice. He's been the tight end on the scout team for the past few weeks and we've seen from [Travis] Kelce, to [Coby] Fleener, to [Stephen] Anderson and those guys, so he's getting a lot of good work there and he's getting better.”

Hollister was one of three Patriots to garner practice player of the week recognition this past week, alongside edge-rusher Geneo Grissom and safety Nate Ebner. And while that is far from a be-all, end-all, it is a step in the right direction for a post-draft call who accounted for 12 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in preseason action en route to making the 53-man roster.

Hollister logged seven snaps on offense and 12 on special teams Sunday.

“He's got a long way to go, but he's making progress and he's shown up and made a few plays for us on offense and also in the kicking game,” Belichick said. “We'll just keep going and see where he can get to.”