Silvestro taking position change in stride

Silvestro taking position change in stride
August 15, 2012, 2:31 pm
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FOXBORO -- Alex Silvestro, defensive end, got the call about his position change in the offseason. After the shock wore off, he figured he should get to work.

"Okay," he had said to himself. "Now I gotta work on tight end things."

Easy, right?

Not even close.

Silvestro last played offense while at Paulsboro High School in New Jersey. Though to recall the fact is almost unfair -- it's not like that experience gave the now 23-year-old any advantage in the NFL.

"It's completely different," he laughed. "That's the thing. I think of things I did in high school and it's just nowhere near this. It's high school!

"I guess you could say I felt like I was starting over. I felt like a rookie again. I came in, tried to learn the system, took the best notes possible, listened to my coach and tried to learn everything he was trying to teach me to do the best I can on the field."

It is, after all, his best shot at making the team.

Silvestro went through Patriots training camp last season at defensive end but got cut. Since then he's been inching his way toward another shot.

New England signed him to the practice squad a few weeks after camp, and he was brought up to the 53-man roster during the week of the Super Bowl. At the time, it was thought Silvestro could add D-line depth in Andre Carter's absence so the Patriots could keep fresh pressure against Eli Manning all night.

But in light of Monday's comments from Nick Caserio's, Silvestro could have provided insurance for someone else. The injured Rob Gronkowski, perhaps?

"Alex worked on both sides of the ball in practice on our practice squad," Caserio explained.

"He was a defensive player but he's tough, he's smart, he's got good size, he's got good playing strength. He actually did a pretty good job for us last year in practice on the scout teams in the tight end role so we thought that it was something that he'd be able to handle."

Though he may be handling the concept, Silvestro still has a long way to go on the field. When asked what the biggest challenge is to the transition, he heaved a sigh, shook his head, and was silent for several moments.

"Honestly, just everything."

Caserio and the rest of the coaching staff knows its a tall order.

"There's so much that goes into that position blocking, receiving, catching, splits, alignments, blocking a certain technique, whether it's a six-technique, whether it's a seven-technique, whether it's a nine-technique," Caserio said. "But you just try to establish your foundation through the spring in training camp and work on those techniques in a real live setting, whether it's in practice or whether it's in the game."

Silvestro went back to Rutgers this offseason and worked out with a group of players there. He practiced 1-on-1s, talked to linemen about blocking, and asked for pointers on technique.

After returning to Foxboro, he met with tight ends coach George Godsey whenever he had questions. Silvestro said he had "tons" of them.

He's committed to not making the same mistakes again and again. And some strides have been taken. Monday was one of his best days of practice. His hands look softer. His routes look a little crisper. Silvestro has made a couple of excellent catches recently, with quarterback Tom Brady getting so excited after a connection Sunday, he pulled his new tight end in a quick hug back at the line.

The focus isn't on a perceived inadequacy or failure at defensive end. Caserio said coaches felt the position change was best for both the player and the team, and Silvestro is okay with that.

"How I took it was just an opportunity. The more I can do, the more valuable I am to the team. Anything that can help us win."