FOXBORO – All offseason, the Patriots browsed the tight end aisle. From the draft to undrafted guys to veteran free agents, they found nothing that appealed enough to either sign or stick with. But the position remained a concern.
On the morning Logan Mankins was traded, Bill Belichick told me trades happen because of surpluses and deficiencies.
And after all the dissection was done, the concrete aspect of the deal – an All-Pro guard for a young and rising tight end – is the one that made it come together. The Patriots had a surplus of guards; a deficiency at tight end.
Tim Wright won’t erase Logan Mankins’ legacy. Still, it will be fair to measure how Wright and the new left guard (probably Josh Kline) perform this season when making an evaluation of the deal.
And it’s to Wright’s credit, that the evaluation can begin in earnest this Sunday. He’s already ready to go.
His work absorbing the New England offense has been ceaseless.
“When you're away from the facility that's when you really try to let it sink in, going over the game plan, whatever they have in there for you,” Wright said Wednesday. “Just right after practice, diving right into it. Once I get to the house, just getting right into it. As long as it takes is as long as it takes until I internalized it.”
The Patriots staff – Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Brian Daboll – have been at it long enough to know how much is too much for an incoming player. Wright’s threshold, though, appears high.
“Tim, I was really impressed with last week,” said McDaniels. “We just got him, and he was able to come in here and learn enough to be able to go out there and play for us in a preseason game for 40-some snaps or whatever it was. He’s working hard, certainly a bright kid and has some talent that hopefully we can utilize, and he just seems to fit in good and has a good attitude and work ethic. I’m just excited about seeing what we can do going forward.”
Tom Brady isn’t the one who decides when Wright is right for the field. But he is the one who – when he throws to Wright – is eliciting the answer of whether or not Wright is good to go. Can he be in the right spot, get open and make a catch.
“You’re not going to put someone out there just to put him out there if you don’t feel like they’re going to contribute,” said Brady. "But that’s what we’re working hard to try to do. We’re all trying to find ways to contribute. We’re all trying to find ways to develop chemistry with one another, develop trust in one another. Like I said, it’s been a short period of time for him. He hasn’t had a chance to go through all the OTAs, the mini-camp, all of training camp. He got here really at the last minute, so he’s been trying to understand what we’re doing, and he’s done a great job of doing it. What his role is, coach decides whether guys play or not, not me. If he’s out there, if they don’t cover him, I’ll probably throw him the ball.”
The Patriots are always big on putting players in “positions to succeed.” It’s an easily-mocked phrase. No team is big on putting players in “positions to fail.”
But there is – generally – a commitment by the team to avoid holding auditions on Sundays. Do it in practice, with consistency, then do it in the games. The team is deep enough personnel-wise and varied enough scheme-wise to do steer clear of uncertainty (again, generally).
The Patriots needed another tight end and they got one. But if Tim Wright is on the field for a big chunk of the opener, it won’t be because the Patriots feel compelled to use him but because he’s ready to be used.
“They put me in a position to do some familiar things,” said Wright. “At the end of the day, it's football. I'm a pass-catcher so I gotta catch the ball. That's what [the Buccaneers] did, and that's what they're doing here. Obviously our focus this week is to just put me in a position to catch balls and do whatever I've gotta do.”