By: Ian Logue
When Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested last month, it created a void at the tight end position for the Patriots and seemingly gave them a problem they really didn’t need.
Factor in the uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski, who has battled multiple infections this offseason on his surgically repaired forearm, and there just seemed to be too many questions for fans to feel confident about how they Patriots would manage to get through the upcoming season at that position.
Sudfeld has been impressive so far through the first two games of the exhibition season. (USA TODAY IMAGAES)
After all, you’re basically talking about two guys who were considered to have the defining characteristics that every team dreams of. So the question of, “how do they replace that?,” was on the minds of many fans coming into training camp.
Throughout the process no one ever really seemed to expect much from undrafted free agent Zach Sudfeld, but so far it’s starting to appear like the Patriots struck gold when they decided to bring him in.
Before the game on Friday night head coach Bill Belichick addressed a question from Scott Zolak on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Patriots PreGame” about how someone with his talent could have slipped by the scouts. Belichick explained that in Nevada, where Sudfeld played, they had him in a position that was much similar to a receiver, but not one that, with his body type, necessarily fit in a similar role in the NFL or in their own offense here in New Enlgand. So instead, the Patriots brought him in and moved him into the tight end position in their system, and he’s settled in quite well and has been the talk of training camp.
On Friday night Sudfeld had a great game, with his diving touchdown catch likely to be shown repeatedly over the next week. On the play Sudfeld caught the pass in between three people, and managed to catch what was a tipped ball by keeping his eyes on the football and reeling it in.
Every once in a while players tend to have moments that tell you they’re going to be really good, and it’s tough not to consider that to be it.
He also caught a two point conversion on an earlier touchdown by Danny Amendola, which was another terrific grab by the rookie free agent.
Overall Belichick seems to be pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“He’s worked hard,” Belichick said after the game. “Zach’s worked hard to learn our offense. It’s a little different than what they did at Nevada. He’s a smart kid and he’s got some skill. He’s been very diligent in his preparation.”
“He’s been out there almost every day out there practicing. Coach Godsey has done a good job with him. He’s had to learn how to be an on-the-line tight end. He’s making progress but he’s got a long way to go. He’s made a lot of gains.
“He’s a hardworking kid. He’s smart and tough. He’s got a couple things going for him. ”
And after watching him again Friday night, he seems to have a bright future ahead of him.
If you missed the play, you can click here to watch it.