FOXBORO, Mass. — Well, someone has to play tight end for the New England Patriots in Week 14 with Rob Gronkowski out.
And while veteran Dwayne Allen likely will start with Gronkowski suspended one game for a violation of the NFL’s unnecessary roughness rules, rookie Jacob Hollister should take on a greater role as a pass catcher, as well. He feels he’s ready.
“I would say you always feel prepared to a certain extent, and I knew with Gronk being out this week I have to step up,” Hollister said Wednesday. “At some point, everyone has to step up, and this is my week to step up. I’ll just go in there and execute.”
With Gronkowski and Allen on the roster, it seemed possible Hollister, whose twin, Cody, is a wide receiver on the practice squad, would be redshirted as a rookie, especially after he was a healthy scratch in Week 1. But Hollister, at 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, has taken on a considerable role on special teams that has grown throughout the year. Hollister played just four special teams snaps in Week 2. He was on the field for 66.7 percent of special teams plays (14 snaps) Sunday.
He’s made two tackles, which is actually pretty solid for a guy who hasn’t done a lot of tackling in his recent life.
“It was definitely an adjustment, not tackling a lot throughout college,” Hollister said. “I think once you watch some of these older guys and what they’re doing, and then you watch film on guys like Nate and Matthew and those guys, it’s really just learning every day and really just being aggressive. I’ve been trying to improve a lot in that area, because I feel like I have the athleticism and speed to get down there, and then you really just have to make the tackle at the end of the day, so that’s something I’ve been working on.”
Hollister played safety as a senior in high school — he noted he had seven interceptions that year — but wasn’t allowed to play defense his junior season as the team’s starting quarterback.
Head coach Bill Belichick has been impressed with his development as a tackler.
“Look, that takes a lot of work, takes a lot of extra work. (Patriots wide receiver Matthew) Slater was in that category, (running back Brandon) Bolden, guys like that, that played in the kicking game for us. Hollister is in that category. Yeah, you keep working on those things in practice and leverage, breaking down the actual technique and fundamental of hitting the guy, and hitting the runner and wrapping him up, closing space, taking the proper angle when you close, maintaining that leverage, understanding where people are around you.
“We do tackling drills every day and we watch a lot of film on tackling. We practice it, especially with a player like that who, as you pointed out, doesn’t really have very much experience doing that.”
Hollister also has impressed the coaching staff with his progress at tight end.
“Some things come more naturally to some guys than others,” Belichick said. “I’d say in Jacob’s case, a lot of things that he didn’t do, which was almost everything, he’s picked up relatively quickly. I’m not saying he’s got it all down. I’m not saying that at all. But I’d say he’s picked up a lot of things at the tight end position, which as we’ve talked about, is not the easiest position in our offense to learn and in the kicking game.”