By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Following the Patriots closely over the years has its quirks, and of the best intricacies and oddities has been the folktale of one Mr. Zach Sudfeld.
An unknown tight end out of Nevada, Sudfeld hit the field for the preseason in 2013 and lit up opposing defenses. At 6-foot-7 and with impressive hands, he looked like the next great Patriots tight end, a perfect understudy to Rob Gronkowski, and someone who would no doubt go on to catch many passes from Tom Brady over the years.
He’d end up catching exactly zero passes as a member of the Patriots, and he’s caught just 10 total passes in the NFL.
But The Legend Of Sudfeld lives on to this day, where every striking performance by a Patriots player in a preseason game comes with The Sudfeld Warning.
With that reality fully in mind, we can still appreciate the performance put forth by tight end Jacob Hollister on Thursday night against the Jaguars.
An undrafted rookie out of Wyoming who signed with the Patriots along with his twin brother Cody back in May, Hollister led the Patriots in receptions (7) and receiving yards (116) in the losing effort. It wasn’t just the stats, though, that stood out, as Hollister displayed a serious level of toughness and awareness on a number of plays.
The first glimpse of Hollister we caught came late in the second quarter, when he went up to haul in a pass over the middle, knowing he’d be absorbing a big hit in the process. He took that hit, held on to the ball, and picked up a first down.
Later in the quarter, he made a catch and again held on while getting walloped, this time losing his helmet and drawing a flag on the defense for unnecessary roughness.
“I think I needed a couple of those hits to get me going, [especially] those first couple of big hits,” Hollister said after the game. “I got riled up both times.”
There was also, of course, Hollister’s hurdling show, which resulted in yet another personal foul on the defense.
Obviously, nobody’s putting Hollister in the Hall of Fame just yet. He doesn’t even have a roster spot even close to secured.
But, if the Patriots are interested in having more of a pass-catching player as the third tight end instead of more of a blocking tight end like James O’Shaughnessy or Matt Lengel, then the 23-year-old showed in this one that he’s up for the task.
With Hollister now officially on Sudfeld Watch, let’s move on to some more leftover thoughts from the unforgettable Patriots preseason 31-24 loss to the Jaguars.
–The Deatrich Wise injury was an unfortunate one. For a rookie making serious strides through his first training camp, a knee to the back of the head is sure to slow him down. But if you want to look on the sunnier side, you can remember that Malcolm Mitchell suffered that scary-looking elbow injury in the preseason opener last year yet was still able to contribute in a big way to the Super Bowl-winning team.
–The Cyrus Jones Experience™ has just grown uncomfortable. It’s tough to watch. It’s not enjoyable in any way, really. He seems like a good kid. He seems like he’s putting forth his best effort and has his head in the right place.
But man, oh man, it’s just not working out.
In the kick return game, he returned six kickoffs. Those drives started at the 15-yard line twice, the 10-yard line, the 24-yard line, the 25-yard line and the 26-yard line. That’s sub-optimal, and as the night went on, it was evident that less and less confidence was being exuded on the returns.
He had one punt return for zero yards, but did manage to avoid touching a bouncing punt later in the game.
And defensively, he was responsible for the 97-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne (Chad Henne!) to Keelan Cole, and he was at least partially responsible for the 42-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to Dede Westbrook.
For a player who really needed to take a step in the right direction, Thursday night was a rough one.
–For years, a common refrain from the enraged masses after an opponent either connected on a long bomb or drew a pass interference penalty on the Patriots was “TURN AROUND AND LOOK FOR THE BALL WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH MY GOD YOU IDIOTS!” Or something close to that.
But on the 97-yarder to Cole, you saw why looking up for the ball can be costly. Jones was actually in decent position to defend a pass to Cole, but the cornerback looked up to try to find the ball sailing through the night sky. That search of the sky cost Jones a half of a step, and in the NFL, that’s enough to leave you cooked.
Here’s Jones running step for step with Cole:
Here’s Jones looking up to find the football:
And here’s all the separation that’s needed for a receiver to break off a 97-yard touchdown:
–It’s pretty crazy that in a preseason game against the Jaguars, it’s legitimately difficult to highlight a defensive player who stood out. But that’s what happens when the trio of Blake Bortles, Chad Henne and Brandon Allen combine for a 151.4 passer rating.
It also happens when you allow this to turn into a 79-yard touchdown run:
This doesn’t help, either:
–Jimmy Garoppolo got off to a rough start, but then he started to feel it. He took a sack on third down on the opening drive, and he did the same in his second drive. On the third, he misfired on a pass to Hollister on third down for a three-and-out. He was 4-for-7 for 33 yards through three drives. He had short-armed a couple of passes and his accuracy wasn’t on point. It wasn’t great.
Yet after that point, he completed 18-of-21 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no INTs. The best play, in my eyes, was his third-down scramble and throw to Austin Carr, who showed good awareness in running along with Garoppolo toward the right sideline. Garoppolo slung a side-arm pass to Carr on a third-and-7 for a gain of 10 to keep the drive alive.
That drive ended with a missed 56-yard field goal attempt from Stephen Gostkowski, but it showed the kind of improvisation that makes Garoppolo unique.
–Not to harp on the Wes Welker Super Bowl drop for the sixth straight year, but let’s harp on the Wes Welker Super Bowl drop for the sixth straight year. I just, for years, I’ve heard folks say that the blame is all on Tom Brady for not throwing a great ball, and I keep yelling at the wall saying that if you watch NFL games you’ll see a receiver make a catch on a pass like that every single week, to the point where it’s maybe become the root of a little bit of instability.
But now, here, watch an undrafted rookie receiver make a catch that’s roughly five times more difficult than the one Welker was tasked with making in Super Bowl XLVI.
OK thank you and sorry.
–Six-year-old drops aside, credit to the kid for going up and getting that one. The ball’s out of the frame, but this gives you an indication of the ups displayed on this one:
–Jacoby Brissett, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, isn’t particularly “huge,” per se. But man, does he play big. That much was clear when Brissett just outright decided that he was not going to get sacked. Audie Cole came off the left side of the Patriots’ offensive line and had a clear shot on Brissett. But Brissett planted himself, stood tall, shed the would-be sack, looked up the field, and fired a strike to Sam Cotton for a gain of 22 yards.
It was very Roethlisberger-esque. In the good way.
–I’m not sure if you caught it or not, but the Patriots showed off a pretty secretive signal for when they want to send their field goal unit onto the field:
The Patriots have to hope that no opposing coaches were pointing any cameras at the sideline for that one, because they might be able to crack the code.
–This photograph certainly caused some waves to splash across New England:
Lots of people were mad about this, or assumed these people were plants who were paid by the NFL for the publicity. Obviously, the wounds from DeflateGate are still fresh, so there’s going to be some reaction.
But, well, you know, what were these guys supposed to do? Assault the commissioner of the NFL? Flip him off like that one guy did? Who looks good in those scenarios? There’s something to be said about not stooping to certain levels of behavior.
You know who else took a photo with Goodell? Tom Brady himself — the master of The Four Agreements.
Do you know who’s hung out with Goodell since DeflateGate? Robert Kraft.
It’s just … I firmly believe that the NFL’s impropriety during that two years of nonsense should never be forgotten, and Goodell has never been properly held accountable for the deceit of him and his executives throughout the whole embarrassing matter. It should never be forgotten, and yeah, wearing a Brady jersey and posing with the commissioner might make these fans look slightly oblivious. But to anybody actually making these people out to be enemies of the state? That’s a bit much, people. Let’s all take a deep breath and maybe, like, I don’t know, do some push-ups, eat some ice cream or do whatever’s necessary to get past this photograph. Together, we can do it.
–And now, to our top story: Julian Edelman wore long sleeves.
What the heck? This is a man who goes sleeveless in January, yet he’s rocking long sleeves in August. Just doesn’t look right. I’m uncomfortable. This is wrong.