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 one of New England’s new tight ends.
Name: Lance Kendricks
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 81
Opening day age: 31
Size: 6’3, 250 lbs.
2018 review: Coming off the statistically worst season of his career, Lance Kendricks entered his second year with the Green Bay Packers with little expectations — and he did not necessarily exceed them either, at least as a pass catcher. He again played a rotational role as the team’s number two tight end behind Jimmy Graham, after all, and his contributions to the team came primarily as a blocker.
Overall, Kendricks appeared in all sixteen of Green Bay’s contests last season and was on the field for 314 of the team’s 1,074 total offensive snaps (29.2%). While he did see regular action, his receiving numbers once more were nothing to write home about and not on the same level they were at when he was still with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (from his selection as a second-round draft pick in 2011 to his release in 2017).
Kendricks was targeted a combined 25 times during the season and came away with 19 catches for 170 yards and a single touchdown. While the resulting catch rate of 76.0% was the best of his eight seasons in the NFL, the Wisconsin product did set new career-lows when it came to targets and receiving yardage. But while his work as a pass catcher was again rather mediocre, his blocking was comparatively solid.
All in all, the veteran performed well as a pass protector — he surrendered only a single sack all year — and looked good in the running game as well. Furthermore, Kendricks also proved his versatility on a regular basis: from fullback to classic in-line tight end, the Packers were not afraid to move him around the formation to take advantage of his blocking skills. Speaking of versatility, he also saw regular action on special teams.
Kendricks played a combined 73 snaps in the kicking game (of 471; 15.5%), primarily seeing action on punt coverage. He registered one tackle, but was generally solid in the game’s third phase. All in all, his second year in Green Bay can therefore be classified as ‘okay’ — Kendricks’ passing game contributions were limited, but his overall value to the club was on display on a weekly basis.
2019 preview: Kendricks’ contract expired after the 2018 season, and free agency started pretty quietly for him. In fact, he remained unsigned until the Patriots picked him up on the eve of their training camp — the team signed him to a one-year contract worth a maximum of $1.2 million. Since the contract only includes minimal guarantees ($50,000), however, Kendricks’ status with the team is far from certain.
Instead, he will have to fight for his roster life. What should help him is his experience in combination with the uncertain nature of New England’s tight end group: Benjamin Watson will open the regular season suspended for four weeks, while Matt LaCosse and Stephen Anderson are currently both nursing injuries. The rest of the group — Ryan Izzo, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck — lack considerable experience in the Patriots’ system.
What Kendricks has to do to make the team is therefore to distinguish himself as a valuable rotational tight end and special teamer. If he can do that, he might at least survive cutdown day alongside projected number one tight end Matt LaCosse. If not, however, the Patriots will quickly say goodbye to the 31-year-old in favor of other options at the position. At this point in time, and with Kendricks just returning from an injury himself, anything seems possible.