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NFL New England Patriots

2013 New England Patriots Training Camp Player to Watch: Jake Ballard

 

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What an offseason for the New England Patriots. Let’s recap some of the major happenings:

Their number one wideout from the past couple of seasons, Wes Welker, spurned the team in favor of heading to the Denver Broncos to join another legendary quarterback.

Their top tight end, arguably the best in the game, had his 83rd surgery in the past year.

The other top-notch tight end was charged with murder, and well, he won’t be seeing the field for a little while.

So, what does Tom Brady do now? Well, the easy answer would be to say he’ll do the same thing he’s always done: win.

But, the other question everyone is asking now that both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are out of the picture — one more so than the other of course — is in regards to the tight end that will step up in their absence. Will it be 25 year-old Jake Ballard with only one year of experience? Will Tim Tebow switch positions?

I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

Ballard is going to be the guy in New England for a while this year. Ballard possesses the skills to not only contribute in the passing game but the size to be a force in blocking. At 6’6”, 275 pounds Ballard is a tank at the position. He’s got a pair of pretty sure hands on him and playing with a guy like Brady will only further his development.

Entering into his first training camp with the team, Ballard will have to step up in a big way and become a legitimate option on a team without any of their big names from seasons past. In 2011 — his only season in the league — with the New York Giants, Ballard put up 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns.

It may not seem like much, but consider the fact he averaged 15.9 yards per catch at the tight end position and it suddenly seems much more impressive.

Ballard will absolutely contribute to the offense. He’s showed that he can be a formidable tight end in this league and under the coaching and leadership of New England, this training camp will do wonders for his young career. Patriots fans should be excited about the potential of this guy. While he won’t make you forget about Gronkowski and Hernandez, he’ll certainly do a nice fill-in job.

Ryan Heckman is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter  @ryanmheckman, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.