FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have struggled to extract production out of the tight end position this season, so would they be willing to make a minor roster move to change that as they head into the postseason? It might not be the worst idea.
They have an interesting prospect on their practice squad in former Houston Texans pass-catcher Stephen Anderson.
Anderson, who’s listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, has been on the Patriots’ practice squad all season. He caught 25 passes for 342 yards with one touchdown last season with the Texans. He has 36 career receptions for 435 yards with two scores.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for Anderson on Friday.
“He’s done well for us,” Belichick said. “We’ve used him in a lot of different roles in practice. He’s been great. He’s been one of the guys that’s been recognized on multiple weeks for the job he’s done for us either as a big receiver or as the go-to tight end for the team that we’re playing — also in the kicking game. He’s done well.”
Anderson was named a practice player of the week after the Patriots’ wins over the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Belichick was vague when asked if the Patriots view Anderson as more of a big receiver or tight end. Anderson played both positions in college at California, where he caught 101 passes for 1,260 yards with seven touchdowns. He ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash with a 1.59-second 10-yard split, 6.95-second 3-cone, 4.13-second short shuttle, 38-inch vertical leap and 9-foot, 11-inch broad jump coming out of school in 2016.
“He has good skill in the passing game,” Belichick said. “He’s learned all of the positions. We have a lot of different formations, and the tight ends are involved in so many of those. They’re an integral part of it. He’s smart. He obviously has game experience, but he’s also a versatile player that’s able to do different things.”
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has 45 catches for 658 yards with three touchdowns this season. Dwayne Allen mostly has been used as a blocker and has just three receptions for 27 yards. Jacob Hollister, who’s currently sitting out of practice with a hamstring injury, has four catches for 52 yards in eight games. Hollister has missed games with chest and hamstring injuries. He also was a healthy scratch one week.
The Patriots haven’t received so little production out of the tight end position since 2009. Tight ends caught 53 passes for 744 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Patriots tight ends currently have 52 catches for 737 yards and three touchdowns this season.
If the Patriots view Hollister’s injury as a long-term issue, they could place him on injured reserve and call up Anderson. The Patriots signed former Texans defensive end Ufomba Kamalu off their practice squad last week.