By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have filled the void on their practice squad with an extremely versatile player. The Patriots have signed quarterback-turned-tight end Jason Vander Laan, the team announced on Wednesday.
Vander Laan was at Wednesday’s practice, sporting the No. 82 jersey for New England. Although he just arrived in New England, Vander Laan may play a big role in how they prepare for their matchup with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The 27-year-old had a great college career as quarterback for Ferris State in Division II, rushing for 5,953 yards — an NCAA record for all divisions. He signed with the New York Jets after he went undrafted in 2016, which is when he gave up on being a quarterback and switched to tight end. Vander Laan spent part of the 2016 season on the New York practice squad, but was released before the 2017 season. He’s spent time between the practice squads and 53-man rosters of the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers the last two years, but did not accrue any stats. He was released by Carolina just ahead of the 2019 season.
How could a player who has just four NFL games (all in 2017 with the Colts) and zero career receptions help the Patriots? We’re talkin’ about practice, and in practice, he could be a big help. Vander Laan gives the New England practice squad someone who has mobility at QB, something newcomer Cody Kessler and rookie Jarrett Stidham wouldn’t be able to replicate for the first-team offense. Vander Laan should be able to help in that department this week as the Patriots gear up for Allen, who has rushed for 105 yards on 26 carries for Buffalo this season.
“He’s like a running back,” Belichick said of the Bills quarterback on Wednesday. “He breaks tackles, he’s got good speed, good power and he’s shifty and he avoids and breaks a lot of tackles. Yeah, that’s another dimension. A sixth receiver in the passing game, if you will, and gives you another blocker in the running game when they have designed run plays for him. They’ve hit a lot of them at critical times, a lot of big plays — touchdowns, red area, third-down conversions, things like that. They use them in some timely ways, well-designed plays that create problems for the defense. He adds that element to their offense and they’ve used it very effectively.”
It would certainly help to have someone kinda-sorta like that in practice, and now the Patriots may have one. Though he’s a tight end, and the Patriots could use some depth at that position, Vander Laan’s impact with the New England practice squad likely won’t come at that position.
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Bills clash on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins Friday night at 7 p.m. with Patriots All Access, and kicks off Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay. The Patriots and Bills kick off at 1 p.m. and after the game, switch over to TV38 for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!