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: Ryan Izzo
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 85
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’5, 255 lbs.
2018 review: Only seven draft slots were not yet filled when Ryan Izzo heard his name called: with the 250th overall pick in the seventh round, the Patriots had invested in the Florida State product. Izzo entered a difficult environment in New England, as the team’s tight end group was one of the deepest in the NFL at the time — led by future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski and veteran blocker Dwayne Allen.
Entering the NFL on the back of his blocking skills, Izzo needed to stand out during training camp and preseason to have a chance of taking Allen’s spot and making the team. Early on during the exhibition period, he did at least get plenty of chances to prove his value to the club: over the first two of New England’s preseason games, the rookie was on the field for 56 of a possible 148 offensive snaps (37.8%) and 17 more on special teams (of 63; 27.0%).
While Izzo caught 3 passes for a combined 17 yards, his main contributions to the team came as a blocker in the running game. He looked solid in this area, but unfortunately was unable to build on his performance after the first two games: a high ankle sprain forced him to sit out preseason weeks three and four, and ultimately led the Patriots to place him on injured reserve on cutdown weekend. Ineligible to be reactivated, Izzo’s first year in the league came to a quick end.
2019 preview: Following his one-year stint on the sidelines, Izzo returned to the field during the Patriots’ organized team activities — and as the team’s longest-tenured tight end after Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister all left the club over the course of the offseason. Despite his relative experience and minimal salary cap hit ($512,268), however, Izzo finds himself on the roster bubble halfway through preseason.
After all, the top if the tight end depth chart appears to be set in stone with Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson expected to serve as the one-two punch at the position this year. That being said, neither of them is a safe bet to be available on opening day: while Watson will certainly miss the first four regular season ges because of a suspension, LaCosse is currently dealing with a sprained ankle suffered during the preseason opener.
No matter what happens with LaCosse’s recovery, the Patriots will have at least one open spot to start the season — and Izzo might be in a good position to earn it. After all, the 23-year-old saw considerable playing time during the first two exhibition games as he was on the field for 68 of a possible 152 offensive snaps (44.7%). No other tight end saw more action, which could be a positive sign when it comes to Izzo’s long-term outlook.
But even if he fails to make the cut as the second tight end specialized in blocking, Izzo’s time in New England does not necessarily have to come to an end: he is still eligible to join the practice squad, and with the position’s outlook beyond 2019 pretty much unclear appears to be a solid developmental option.