FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick’s Wednesday morning news conference was heavy on fullback talk, including some high praise for New England Patriots lead blocker James Develin.

“He loves to play,” the Patriots head coach said of Develin. “He’s happy to go in there. And he’s done a good job for us on the punt team, kickoff return team, been good for us in the kicking game. Very dependable player.”

Develin has played in every game for New England this season but has seen his role grow dramatically in recent weeks. After never playing more than 35 offensive snaps in any of the Patriots’ first 13 games, he played more than 40 in each of their last two, including a career-high 43 in a Week 15 win over the Denver Broncos that clinched New England’s eighth consecutive AFC East title.

More than 25 percent of Develin’s offensive snaps this season have come in the last two weeks. But Belichick said he’s not worried about the 28-year-old fullback, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, wearing down under the weight of his increased workload.

“James is strong,” Belichick said. “He’s not big like a lineman, but he’s got very good playing strength for his size. I’d say he’s built to last. He’s got a strong body, he can take contact, and he can give it out, too. He’s tough. He’s got a good mentality — likes contact. He seeks it out.”

Though he’s carried the ball exactly zero times this season, Develin deserves partial credit for the Patriots’ greatly improved rushing attack, which ranks eighth in the NFL in yards per game and fifth in touchdowns. His booming blocks frequently pave the way for leading rusher LeGarrette Blount, who broke Curtis Martin’s single-season franchise record for rushing touchdowns during the win over Denver.

“He’s changed up his techniques, and as he’s played more, guys have kind of played him differently,” Belichick said of Develin. “Some things he’s had to deal with this year that maybe he didn’t have to deal with — he didn’t play too much last year — but two years ago, just from a technique standpoint. But he’s adjusted and adapted with that and done a good job.”

Thumbnail photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images