FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski had some very nice things to say Wednesday about one of his understudies, New England Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister.
It seems everyone does nowadays.
Hollister, who made the Patriots’ roster as an undrafted rookie last season but primarily played on special teams, has shown noticeable improvement this spring and summer and is a contender to leapfrog top backup Dwayne Allen on the depth chart.
“Oh, Jake’s a great guy,” Gronkowski said after New England’s sixth training camp practice. “Great dude. Knows the plays well, great player, and he likes to learn and get better. He wants to be a player that’s reliable, and it’s great to see him learning.
“He’s just a good guy to hang out with, and we’re working off each other — helping each other in the pass game, high-tempo pass game and all that. So (he’s) a great player to be out there with.”
Many NFL players significantly improve in their second season. Gronkowski certainly did, following up a very good rookie campaign in 2010 (42 catches, 546 yards, 10 touchdowns) with a historic sophomore showing (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 touchdowns). Those 2011 yardage and touchdown totals set NFL single-season tight end records that still stand.
“Definitely going into your second year, I felt like you just know a lot more,” Gronkowski said. “You know what to expect, you know the playbook, you know everyone’s expectations — coaches, the players around you and all that type of stuff. You can feel the chemistry a lot more your second year, when I was going through mine.”
Hollister, who caught just four passes for 42 yards in 2017, likely won’t be breaking any records this season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him take on a greater role in the Patriots’ offense, though, especially while wide receiver Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension.
The Wyoming product consistently has seen reps with the first-team offense in training camp and was part of a select group of skill-position players who worked separately with quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday.
“I’m not sure how he’s feeling,” Gronkowski said, “but from seeing him personally, going out there with confidence, knowing the chemistry with the quarterbacks, hopping in to get some reps, he’s doing well, and it’s great to work with him.”
Competing for that No. 2 spot behind Gronkowski are Hollister, Allen, Will Tye and rookie Ryan Izzo. The Patriots already have released veteran tight end Troy Niklas and waived rookie tight end/fullback Shane Wimann. (Wimann cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve.)
Allen excelled as a blocker last season but was a non-factor in the passing game, finishing with 10 catches for 86 yards and one touchdown in 16 games. Tye spent most of the year on New England’s practice squad but was a productive pass catcher for the New York Giants earlier in his career.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images