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What we learned about the Patriots on Tuesday: Bill Belichick’s fullback fixation

09.04.12 at 11:31 pm ET
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Six Patriots-related thoughts at the end of a surprisingly busy Tuesday:

1. We’ve seen Patriots players come and go pretty quickly — last month, it took fullback Kareem Huggins less than a day to go from signed to released — and so the 72 hours Matt Tennant spent as a member of the Patriots wasn’t all that unusual, especially as New England continues roster tweaks between now and the opener. Tennant, who was claimed off waivers, was cleared to make room for Lex Hilliard. Hilliard, a 5-foot-11, 240-pounder, has played both fullback and running back over the course of his career, and could be the latest in a long line of those who have auditioned for the role of fullback in the New England offense this season. (Hilliard has lined up at fullback in the past.) In that same vein, fullback Eric Kettani was released from the practice squad on Tuesday.

2. Since the start of the offseason, the Patriots have cycled through fullbacks at a furious rate: New England has released Lousaka Polite, and while Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta were signed, both were left on the side of the road before the end of the summer. (Fiammetta was placed on exempt/left squad, while Larsen went on injured reserve.) Huggins was in Foxboro for one day before being released, while Kettani went from surviving the first round of cuts to being released to landing on the practice squad, only to be cut again on Tuesday. The latest possibilities are James Develin, who was added to the practice squad on Sept. 2, and Hilliard, who was added to the 53-man roster on Tuesday. Neither one is a traditional fullback, but both likely will be pressed into service as members of the Patriots as Bill Belichick continues his fullback fixation.

3. The news that the Patriots were going to kick the tires on recently released tight end Kellen Winslow defines the term “due diligence.” Winslow, who was cut loose by the Seahawks, has been in the league for eight seasons — five with the Browns and three with the Buccaneers. His best season came in 2007 with the Browns, when he had 82 catches for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns. It’s a long shot that he would make the team, even if the team does put Visanthe Shiancoe on injured reserve. Still, it’s an interesting story.

4. Mike Kafka worked out for the Patriots on Tuesday, and is an intriguing option if the Patriots want to add to their quarterback depth. Kafka, recently released by the Eagles, has played two years in the NFL with Philadelphia and appeared in four regular-season games, going 11-for-16 for 107 yards and two interceptions. The 25-year-old Northwestern product also reportedly has drawn interest from the Chiefs, Packers and Browns. One important thing to consider when it comes to Kafka is that he does not have any practice squad eligibility remaining, so if New England does add him, it would be to the 53-man roster, and such a move would be at the expense of another player.

5. In my mind, the last possible day Brian Waters can arrive and have a legitimate impact in Week 1 is Wednesday, and even that’€™s cutting it close. The veteran lineman showed up eight days before the start of the 2011 season, and was still able to play the majority of snaps in the regular-season opener against the Dolphins, and complete the entire season at a Pro Bowl level. (Only Tom Brady played more snaps on the offensive side of the ball last season.) That being said, the release of Tennant and continued absence of Waters really leaves the Patriots thin on the offensive line. Right now, New England has seven healthy offensive linemen, while the eighth — Nick McDonald — hasn’t practiced the last few days and is unlikely to be ready for Sunday’s opener against the Titans.

6. One more note on our story from Tuesday where we looked at the comparisons between Chandler Jones and Jason Pierre-Paul. We talked to Alen Dumonjic, who breaks down game film for TheScore.com, and he offered us his take on the two: “The two have a similar frame, with Jones only having longer arms than Pierre-Paul, but in my opinion, Pierre-Paul is more explosive and possesses more athleticism as well as flexibility than Jones. Pierre-Paul is quicker off the line of scrimmage and can bend his knees very well for his size. On the other hand, Jones is more of a power rusher in my opinion, as he has very strong hands and is more likely to build his pass rush moves off of power opposed to speed and quickness, a la Pierre-Paul.”

Read More: Brian Waters, chandler jones, James Develin, Jason Pierre-Paul
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