FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots must be asking themselves how it came to this.
New England entered the spring as deep as any team in the league at tight end. Even without Rob Gronkowski, they had three former NFL starters on the roster in Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui. Undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld offered plenty of promise, as well.
Now the team may be down to just Hoomanawanui as they prepare for the Jets on Thursday night. Sudfeld is reportedly dealing with a hamstring injury and Fells and Ballard were released during final roster cutdowns.
As of Monday, the team had not shown interest in bringing back Ballard, Fells or Matthew Mulligan, who was brought in last week but released before Sunday’s game against Buffalo. The lack of depth at tight end may lead some to think Gronkowski could come back for the Jets game, albeit in a limited capacity.
That seems doubtful at this point, though we’ll know more when when the Patriots send out their injury report Tuesday afternoon. With Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen missing from practice and Aaron Dobson also hampered by a hamstring injury, the Patriots are quickly running out of targets for Tom Brady.
If those injured players can’t go, the Patriots are down to Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, James Develin, Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Hoomanawanui. Running backs Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington are also banged up and missed Sunday’s game.
To hear more about the Patriots’ growing concern in the passing game, watch NESN.com Patriots writer Doug Kyed and MassLive.com’s Nick Underhill discuss Brady’s targets in the video above.