FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots might have a secret weapon on offense this season.
Fullback James Develin, who also has seen snaps at tight end, has caught three passes for 40 yards and one touchdown during the Patriots’ first two preseason games after catching just four passes for 62 yards all of last season. Brady wants to involve Develin in the passing game to add an element of toughness to the Patriots’ offense.
“I want to get it to him, believe me,” Brady said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium after practice. “I want to throw it and see if he can make the defense pay because that’s what he does such a great job of. You give it to him for a 4-yard gain, and he comes up and, ‘Bam!’ He runs over a safety or a corner. That’s a great spark for our team. I want to give it to him as many times as I can in those positions.”
Brady had some high praise for Develin, who played all 16 games for the Patriots in 2013 after being cut on Sept. 2 and re-signed on Sept. 6.
“He’s done such a great job. He’s such a selfless player, great teammate,” Brady said. “I don’t think there is a better fullback in the league, so I’m so happy he’s on our team, and what he’s been able to accomplish for our team has been awesome. He brings so much in terms of his toughness, his attitude. It’s that one position on offense that can really bring a lot of toughness. You get it out of that fullback position. He does whatever the team asks him to do. I can’t say enough good things about him because I think so highly of him.”
Develin, a college defensive end at Brown University, appeared to improve for the Patriots as the season progressed, and he became more comfortable on offense. With a lack of depth at tight end, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Develin might be forced to contribute more in the passing game, and Brady is open to the idea.
“He’s been so dependable for us,” Brady said. “I think he’s been so consistent since he’s been here. Once he got his opportunity he really took advantage of it last summer when we put the pads on for the first time, and he really showed us what he’s all about. He continued that through the whole season, became a really dependable player for us last year, and he’s carried that over into this season.
“It’s great to have him, and all the skill guys we’re going to need because it’s a long year. Whoever is active at the skill spots, we’ve got to use everybody.”