Patriots trade for Atlanta tight end Eric Saubert
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots added another tight end for the upcoming trip to Nashville for joint practices and an exhibition game with the Titans.
The team acquired Eric Saubert from the Falcons for a conditional seventh-round pick on Monday. The move comes after Matt LaCosse suffered a sprained ankle in last week’s preseason win in Detroit, and, according to a league source, will not play against Tennessee on Saturday night.
Saubert is a 6-foot-5-inch, 254-pound target out of Drake who had five catches for 48 yards last season with the Falcons. A fifth-round pick of Atlanta in 2017, he’s known more for his work as a pass-catcher than a blocker; he finished his college career with 190 receptions at Drake.
While it’s unclear how he might fit short-term with New England, Saubert could see the bulk of his reps as a replacement for LaCosse. They have a similar skill set in that they are more oversized receivers as opposed to in-line tight ends.
To that point, a source in the Atlanta front office described Saubert as “a very good athlete with a high ceiling, but someone who needs to improve when it comes to operating in traffic. He could be an effective weapon lined out wide as a big body in the passing game.”
It’s also worth noting that Saubert has terrific special teams value. He was second on the Falcons last year in special teams snaps and cut his teeth as a special teamer in college.
“We used him in multiple ways, both flexed out and as an attached tight end,” said Drake special teams coach Willie Cashmore. “But because he was so big and long and tall and athletic, we really used him a lot on special teams.
“He was part of three of our four special teams units. He blocked at least one punt for us when he was here. After a while, when he got older, he was such a vital part of our offense, we had to manage those special teams reps.
“But he was a four-year starter for us on special teams. We had a pro-style punt team, and so that worked well for him when he got to Atlanta.
“When he was here, that was just such a huge part of things for us when it came to building culture. To see your best player playing special teams, and wanting to do it, it really helped us a lot. He put great care and value into everything he did, and that went a long way toward impacting the culture with us.”
Ben Watson projects to be the Patriots’ top tight end, but the veteran will miss the first four games because of a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
New England also has Lance Kendricks, who returned to practice Monday after being out a week with an undisclosed injury, as well as Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and Andrew Beck competing for snaps and a roster spot. Beck has been working with fullbacks James Develin and Jakob Johnson.
Wynn is all-in
Isaiah Wynn was a big hit Monday, as last year’s top pick participated in competitive team and individual drills for the first time in camp.
The projected left tackle, who tore an Achilles’ tendon last summer, held his own in a nice battle with nose tackle Mike Pennel, and then teamed with Ted Karras to mute Chase Winovich and Byron Cowart.
The 6-2, 310-pound Wynn, who rotated nearly snap-for-snap with Dan Skipper, ended his most productive day by playing left tackle on the first unit as Tom Brady ran the two-minute offense.
“I’m pretty good,’’ Wynn said. “I’m back out there, so that’s the biggest thing. Just coming out here, taking it day by day, and getting ready to help any way I can.’’
Though not a full participant until Monday, Wynn was never far from the action during drills and often would mimic the action from the sideline, working on his lateral movement and backpedaling.
Asked about being rusty, Wynn said, “You’re always working to get better at technique. It’s never polished. So, if you consider that knocking off the rust, then yeah.”
Wynn could help fill the very large void left by Trent Brown, who did yeoman’s work at left tackle last season. The rest of the line returns intact, and Wynn said their experience has helped him — and continues to help him — immensely.
“You learn as you go,’’ said Wynn. “You should never be satisfied, so I’m always picking the vets’ brains. Being able to play next to Joe [Thuney], David [Andrews], Shaq [Mason], [Marcus] Cannon, and even [Skipper], all those guys, they have experience here.
“So, just being able to pick their brains and ask them any type of question, I’m always eager to learn.’’
Putting stock in bonds
Much has been made about the value of joint practices and the benefit of competing against new faces, but Devin McCourty said there’s an additional benefit when the team goes on the road for such practices: Bonding. “We all spend a lot of time together, even after meetings being with each other,’’ he said. “I think the biggest thing when you go on the road like that for a week, it obviously brings a lot from the football side of being on the field, going against another team’s schemes and all that. But, even as a team, we build relationships, guys hang out. I think it just grows our bond together as a team.’’ . . . Undrafted free agent D’Angelo Ross was waived with an injury designation. It’s a tough break for the speedy cornerback out of New Mexico, who had been playing well . . . Offensive tackle Cole Croston was re-signed. Originally an undrafted free agent from Iowa, Croston has flipped between the active roster and practice squad the last two seasons. He’s played in five career games . . . McCourty had a humorous take on what it was like to play with Michael Bennett after playing with his brother, Martellus. “It’s been awesome — in a way,’’ he deadpanned. “I told Mike I didn’t think two people could be so similar and I don’t know what I did to have to deal with two Bennetts like this. He’s very similar to his brother, speaks his mind, always fun to be around him. He’s been, I think, a really good teammate.’’