The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with a young tight end.
Name: Jacob Hollister
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 47
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’4, 245 lbs.
2017 review: After going unselected in the 2017 NFL draft, the Patriots signed Jacob Hollister as an unrestricted free agent to compete for one of the backup tight end spots behind Rob Gronkowski. Compete he did: After a strong training camp and productive preseason during which he registered 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, Hollister was able to make New England’s 53-man roster alongside Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen.
And while the two veterans shared most of the snaps at tight end, Hollister also received regular playing time. Overall, the Wyoming product appeared in each of New England’s final 15 regular season games and was on the field for a combined 7.8% of offensive snaps (86 of 1,139) as a rotational option primarily used in the passing game. In that role, he caught four passes for 42 yards and also carried the football once for five yards.
Hollister added another reception in the Patriots’ playoff opener against the Tennessee Titans – for no gain of yardage, however – but was a healthy scratch for the final two contests of the postseason. Even though his offensive contributions were limited to seven snaps in the divisional round, the undrafted rookie again saw a lot of action as a special teamer that was used on the Patriots’ punt and kickoff coverage units.
Playing 16 of a possible 29 special teams snaps against Tennessee, Hollister continued his trend of seeing regular playing time in the game’s third phase: during the regular season, he already played 188 of 451 kicking game snaps (41.7%) and finished with four tackles as well as a fumble recovery in week 10 against the Denver Broncos – one that set up a Patriots touchdown just two plays later.
All in all, Hollister’s first year in the NFL can mostly be seen as an individual success.
2018 preview: Despite an adequate rookie campaign and a modest salary cap hit of just $558,333, Hollister is no lock to make New England’s 53-man roster this year. He will have to prove himself against some talented competition in the form of Troy Niklas, Will Tye, and Ryan Izzo, and again needs to show that he is worthy of a spot on the team. Hollister will, however, enter training camp with considerable momentum on his side.
After all, the second-year man was one of the offensive standouts during OTAs and minicamp: he looked more comfortable as a pass catcher and noticeably added to his frame. As a result, it would not be surprising if the team opts to keep him around as the top receiving tight end behind Gronkowski. While Hollister is far from the player Gronkowski is, he should again serve as a valuable rotational option to back up the NFL’s best tight end.
Of course, the 24-year old needs to continue building on his rookie campaign and the subsequent strong spring outing to make this happen and solidify his standing on the team. But if spring is any indication, he is well on his way to do that and might also be able to make the famous second-year jump. As a result, Hollister getting a bigger role and achieving improved statistical output could very well be in the cards for him in 2018.