Patriots Training Camp Preview, Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of our Patriots Training Camp Preview! If you missed parts 1, 2 or 3, click the number to check them out!

How do you improve on having the best TE in the league? By adding a guy that had 53 catches and 439 yards in 11 games playing with a mediocre QB and who is the same size as the guy you already have.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

87 Gronkowski, Rob 27 7 Arizona
83 Bennett, Martellus 29 8 Texas A&M
88 Harbor, Clay 29 7 Missouri State
86 Derby, A.J. 24 2 Arkansas
81 Williams, Bryce 23 R East Carolina
44 Scheu, Steven 24 R Vanderbilt

Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett could combine to form quite the dynamic TE duo. Sure, we heard that last year about Gronk and Scott Chandler, and Chandler flopped. Here is the thing though, Chandler never had a 90 catch year, Bennett did in 2014. Brady also gave Chandler chances early in the season, especially in the Red Zone and Chandler just didn’t convert. Which can be seen in Chandler’s catch percentage a lowly 54%, as opposed to his career 64%. Bennett has caught 66% of his targets for his career, and had a high of 70% in 2014 his 90 catch year.

You see what happened with the Patriots offense in 2015 is that when Chandler couldn’t deliver consistently with a limited number of targets, they adjusted away from the 2 tight end sets and Chandler became very much a pure backup for Gronk, instead of another TE weapon.

Clay Harbor isn’t going to light the world on fire by catching the ball, but when he gets a chance he catches it, 68% for his career, and he doesn’t fumble, 3 times in 111 catches, 2.7%. What he will do will complete an excellent heavy package, both as a blocker and possible 3rd receiving option. He can also help with the run game in the regular offense giving Gronk or Bennett a blow for a series.

A.J. Derby is a project of sorts, a QB until his senior year of college and a guy who left Belichick’s buddy Kirk Ferentz’s program to go to Arkansas as a QB before transitioning to TE when his QB dreams died. As a TE though he showed decent production, 303 yards in 22 catches with 3 TEs.  No one knows how he will be at the NFL level, but with his size he has as much of a chance to become a decent NFL TE as the NCAA basketball players that didn’t play college football.

Bryce Williams had a nose for the end zone at East Carolina, 13 career TDs on 96 catches, a nice 13% rate. That sort of intuition, value and size in the red zone is something that is very useful in today’s NFL. At 6’6’’ he stands next to Gronk and Bennett and doesn’t look up. I think it is very likely that if he shows anything in the preseason he ends up on the practice squad at the very least. If he can play some special teams, he may make the roster, or even get poached during the waiver process that happens when putting guys on the practice squad.  

Steven Scheu put up decent numbers at Vanderbilt, a school known for having players that have high IQs, so it makes sense the Patriots would take a shot on him. I think it’s most likely that he ends up cut though, as I doubt the Pats carry 2 TEs on the practice squad.

Starter: Rob Gronkowski
Second String: Martellus Bennett
Backup: Clay Harbor
In case of emergency: A.J. Derby
Practice Squad: Bryce Williams
Cut: Steve Scheu

Here is the compilation of my roster guess through today:

QB 4 RB 5 WR 6 TE 4
Tom Brady Legarrette Blount Julain Edelman Rob Gronkowski
Jimmy Garrapolo Donald Brown Danny Amendola Martellus Bennett
Jacoby Brissett Dion Lewis Chris Hogan Clay Harbor
Unsigned Veteran James White Nate Washington A.J. Derby
Brandon Bolden Malcolm Mitchell
Matthew Slater
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