By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jacob Hollister has generated the most buzz of any Patriots backup tight end this preseason. But at the end of the day, it’s Dwayne Allen who is going to need to step up and seize that No. 2 role.
As impressive as Hollister looked in the first preseason game against the Jaguars, and as solid as James O’Shaughnessy played in his five-catch game against the Texans last Saturday, Allen is the tight end who earned a public vote of confidence from Tom Brady.
He’s also possibly getting the most pressure put on him.
Speaking at his Wednesday press conference ahead of the Patriots’ third preseason game, the “dress rehearsal” against the Lions, Brady was asked specifically about Allen and getting him on the same page with the rest of the Patriots offense. Allen has ostensibly been slow to develop his role, but that doesn’t mean Brady is turning away from him any time soon.
“Yeah, it’s really been fun working with him,” said Brady. “I mean, he’s come to work every day. I don’t know if he’s missed a day. He’s been really durable. He’s done everything the coaches have asked of him. I mean, it’s challenging when you come into a new program – being in one place for a long period of time, getting used to the coaches and the schedule and the routine and the facilities and then to transition – and he’s never made any excuses, he’s never backed down from a challenge, and he’s just gotten better, and I’ve certainly gained more trust in him.”
Brady may be gradually gaining confidence in Allen, but that also means he’s going to continue putting more pressure on him to perform.
“You know, he’s done a lot of good things, and we’re going to keep working on those things and get better at them because we’re going to need him,” said Brady. “That position has been really critical for us over the years. You know, tight ends that play opposite Rob [Gronkowski] get a lot of opportunity. He’s going to need to take advantage of them, and it’s going to be great for our team if he does.”
Hollister and O’Shaughnessy have looked good at times out there, but it’s far too early to buy in on those guys. Remember when Zach Sudfeld was Gronk 2.0 for a couple of weeks? Allen is the veteran, the proven player, the kind of versatile talent that Belichick tends to prefer.
When Gronk is on the field, Allen is going to have to be the one who can either hang back to pick up the extra block or simply be in the right spot for Brady to deliver him the ball when he is left open. It would be a great development for this absurdly deep Patriots offense if he could, at least, be Tim Wright, who caught six touchdowns from Brady in 2014 on red zone plays where the defense basically sold out to stop Gronk.
Allen is certainly a better, more versatile player than Wright was in 2014, and more trustworthy than the other tight ends who have popped a little bit. He’s going to need to be dependable for the Patriots, especially if Gronk gets injured again. Brady agrees.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.