The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 preseason, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with a member of New England’s tight end group.
Name: Stephen Anderson
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 80
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 230 lbs.
2018 review: Despite coming off a rather successful second season with the Houston Texans — appearing in fifteen games and catching 25 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown — Stephen Anderson failed to convince the team to keep him around as a backup tight end during the summer of 2018. The former undrafted rookie was let go during roster cutdowns in favor of rookies Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas.
The preseason was already a sign of thing to come. Anderson appeared only in the first two of the Texans’ exhibition games, being on the field for 27 of a possible 128 offensive snaps (21.1%) and catching a pair of passes for a combined 26 yards. His release was inevitable, but it ultimately helped the Cal product earn his first Super Bowl ring: he was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in early September and spent the entire regular season there.
Anderson earned three ‘practice player of the week’ honors while on New England’s practice squad, and laid the foundation to being promoted to the 53-man squad behind the scenes. In early January, ahead of the Patriots’ playoff opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, the move happened: the team elevated Anderson to its active roster to fill the spot vacated when fellow tight end Jacob Hollister was placed on injured reserve.
While the first-year Patriot did not make the game-day roster during his team’s run towards a championship, he again played a valuable role in practice — and continued to build on his blocking alongside two of the NFL’s best in this area, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen. 2018 can therefore be considered a success for Anderson, even though he did not play even a single snap during the regular season or the playoffs.
2019 preview: Of the four tight ends to spend time on New England’s active roster in 2018, Anderson is the only one to remain with the club entering 2019: Gronkowski retired, Allen was released, and Hollister was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. However, that does still not make the 26-year-old a lock to make the team this year — Anderson, like the other five tight ends on the roster, will have to earn his spot.
So far in the process, he appears to be on the outside looking in: Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse seem to have established themselves as the frontrunners, despite Anderson looking good at times as a pass catcher. The chances to showcase his talents are limited, though, and preseason was an example of that: he played only three snaps during the first exhibition game against the Detroit Lions, effectively being the fifth option in terms of playing time.
Of course, that does not mean Anderson’s chances of making the team are nonexistent: there is still plenty of time, and injuries — like the one suffered by LaCosse — could alter the picture drastically. The same goes for Watson’s four-game suspension to open the regular season. So while Anderson’s playing time suggests otherwise, there could still be a solid chance he ends up on the team if he continues to improve his blocking and make plays as a pass catcher.