The New England Patriots are already thin at the tight end position and just took another blow on Saturday.
Veteran Lance Kendricks, who suffered a minor injury in the Patriots’ preseason win over Carolina, has been suspended without pay for the opening game of the 2019 NFL season for a violation of the league’s policy on substances of abuse, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Kendricks will join fellow tight end Ben Watson, who is suspended for the first four games of 2019. Both Kendricks and Watson were shaken up against Carolina. Other tight ends, Stephen Anderson and Matt LaCosse, are also dealing with injuries suffered in the preseason.
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That leaves Eric Saubert, Ryan Izzo, and Andrew Beck as the only healthy options currently available for New England’s Week 1 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
New England’s roster competition at tight end is still far from settled, though Kendricks had been in good position after recovering from an injury suffered early in his tenure with the team back in training camp. Kendricks played 24 snaps against the Panthers, second-most of any Patriots’ tight end behind Ryan Izzo.
Impact on Depth Chart
There is a ton of uncertainty on the depth chart now for the tight end position. Kendricks was looking likely to make the roster out of preseason and was seeing his number of snaps increase.
While there is still a chance he makes the roster, it forces New England to test its depth at the position for the opening game of the season. Matt LaCosse has not returned to practice after spraining his ankle in the first preseason game. Benjamin Watson, who will be the team’s starter, is suspended the opening four games as well.
Stephen Anderson would have been the likely choice for New England to use, but he has been hampered by injury as well and has been on the roster bubble since training camp. A converted receiver, Anderson has a year in the Patriots’ system should he be healthy to play Week 1 and wouldn’t be a bad option for Tom Brady to have at his disposal.
But without Anderson, it leaves Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck, and Ryan Izzo as the only options. Izzo showed vast improvement and was given starting reps with Brady against the Panthers. His chances of making the roster have improved dramatically even before the news of Kendrick’s suspension.
Beck was the highest-paid undrafted rookie and his athleticism and versatility are setting him apart as well. Saubert, meanwhile, is still trying to learn the offense after being traded from Atlanta and hasn’t really adjusted accordingly.
Kendricks’ NFL History
Kendricks is set to enter his ninth NFL season in 2019 with stints in St. Louis and Green Bay.
He has 19 touchdown receptions in his NFL career, including a career-high of five in 2014 while with the Rams.
His production declined last season, posting only 170 receiving yards and a single touchdown catch on 19 total receptions, playing a full 16 games.