When it comes to former New England Patriots players Bill Belichick never should have let get away,
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo immediately comes to mind and likely tops a pretty strong list.
But one name who might not catch as much recognition, a guy who also featured on Monday Night Football in Week 10, was Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister.
Signed as an undrafted rookie out of Wyoming in 2017, the tight end made the roster in two straight seasons for the Patriots. He was used sparingly in the receiving game but played a role in the run-blocking schemes for New England.
While many felt as if he was quickly earning Tom Brady’s trust and that it was all but certain he would be a starter in 2019, the Patriots shipped him to Seattle during the offseason in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round pick. Hollister’s tenure in Seattle started inauspiciously but he has quickly proven to be a starting-caliber tight end. Bill Belichick got this deal wrong as the Patriots never should have traded Hollister.
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A Decline in Tight End Targets
The Patriots are currently 32nd, dead last, in the NFL in tight end target percentage this season. Patriots’ tight ends have been targeted on just eight percent of passes this season. It’s a sharp decline from 15 percent last season, right around league average, and 24 percent in 2017, second-most in the NFL.
Part of that low target rate, of course, has to do with injuries, the inconsistency of targets, and a lack of Rob Gronkowski. Even without Gronk, the Patriots have been employing the services of Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Ben Watson for the majority of the season.
LaCosse and Izzo both missed time with injuries, Watson was suspended, released, and brought back before assuming the starting role. Even with a healthy tight end, the Patriots have been using them more as blockers for the running backs with little success.
How Hollister Would Have Helped
At 6-foot-4. 245 pounds, Hollister isn’t tipping scales with his size but he added weight since his rookie season making his blocking much better than when he first entered the league. His presence on the line of scrimmage would have helped New England’s running game a great deal this season.
In the receiving game, Hollister wouldn’t be earning a massive workload, but his familiarity with the offense and chemistry would Brady could have made him a big asset. New England is seeing little production from that position and Hollister may have made his biggest contribution by helping to replace Gronkowski.
He’s clearly shown an ability to be a receiver in the NFL, having caught a trio of touchdown passes for the Seahawks since being promoted from the practice squad. He has also helped the Seahawks rushing offense stay productive deep into the season, with Chris Carson compiling over 800 yards on the ground through 10 games this season.
While Hollister may not have ever produced Gronk-like numbers, his presence would have been a big boost for the Patriots this season.