Could a preseason encounter have played a part in the New England Patriots’ interest in Matt LaCosse?
“I don’t know,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick offered Tuesday at the annual NFL coaches breakfast.
If Aug. 31, 2017 didn’t help, it also didn’t hurt.
LaCosse, who signed a two-year deal with New England carrying $500,000 in guarantees earlier this March, visited Gillette Stadium as a New York Giant on that date.
He’d visit the end zone while there.
A trio of quarterbacks completed passes to LaCosse in the 2017 preseason finale. The tight end finished it with five receptions on five targets for 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I had the opportunities tonight to make a few plays and I’m glad I was able to show some people that when the lights come on, I can play, too,” LaCosse said postgame, per the team transcripts.
The Patriots rotated through just 15 players on defense that Thursday evening as linebackers coach Brian Flores got a test drive calling the plays. All 15 were part of the transactions that followed on Labor Day weekend as rosters around the league trimmed from 90 to 53.
But LaCosse wouldn’t be among New York’s transactions at that point in time.
“It’s in their hands now,” he added. “I played well and I think I showed them I could play. I’m not going to worry about it.”
Geno Smith found LaCosse driving across the field for a gain of 12 yards early in the first quarter with safety David Jones trailing. Later in the possession, Smith hit him again on a corner route for a 25-yard touchdown in the vicinity of three Patriots defenders.
“I have a lot of trust in Matt,” Smith said afterwards. “It was man coverage. I think the corner came off of his man, but I trusted Matt, and he did a good job going up and getting that thing and getting into the end zone.”
By the second quarter against New England, Josh Johnson was in under center and connected with LaCosse on a play-action drag opposite cornerback D.J. Killings for another score from a couple yards out.
And by the time the two-minute drill was turned to in the fourth, it was rookie QB Davis Webb throwing LaCosse’s way. The third-round pick by way of California and Texas Tech did so on back-to-back stick patterns versus defensive back Jason Thompson for gains of 10 and 11 yards.
Those out-breakers came in the closing seconds of a 38-37 game that New York would win on a field goal.
“We really like him one-on-one,” Webb told reporters of LaCosse. “He’s a mismatch. He’s bigger and faster. He’s agile enough to get in and out of routes. He’s a great route-runner and blocks his butt off and works hard.”
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Lacosse is now 26 and working on his fourth team since entering as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2015. He’s twice been a Giant. He’s also been a New York Jet and a Denver Bronco. And he’s been on practice squads and active rosters while appearing in 22 games beyond the preseason.
LaCosse caught 24 of his 27 career passes for 250 of his 272 career yards and one touchdown with Denver in 2018.
A handful starts were accrued along the way.
“We wanted to have him on our team, so we’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said Tuesday. “… We think he’d be competitive.”
On a Patriots depth chart that no longer features Rob Gronkowski, LaCosse currently stands in the company of Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollister and Ryan Izzo.
His snaps from two summers ago aren’t the reason why. But there’s reason to think what’s on file carries some weight, even from games that don’t.