Michael Hoomanawanui remains as one of the more dependable players the team currently has at the tight end position heading into 2014. (USA TODAY Images)
(This continues a series of individual player spotlights over the next few weeks leading up to training camp. So check back frequently as we go down the roster. This edition focuses on Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanwanui:)
2013 must have been an interesting experience for Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. The veteran tight end went from being the team's third tight end to becoming a starter very quickly after Aaron Hernadnez' double life caught up with him and quickly ended his tenure in New England. With Rob Gronkowski still recovering from a forearm injury and offseason back surgery, Hoomanawanui ended up finding himself as the go-to guy for the majority of last season.
Paired with Matthew Mulligan, Hoomanawanui saw the lion's share of the offensive snaps in 2013, and for the most part did about as much as could have been expected. He was utilized quite a bit in the running game, and through the first six games was relatively productive. He caught eight passes on 11 targets for 95 yards over that span and overall finished with 12 catches on 19 targets for 136 yards including one touchdown.
He's not a great player by any means, but he's one of those players who has proven to be a terrific fit in an offense that suddenly values him a little more given what's transpired over the past year.
Best game of 2013:
Hoomanawanui's most productive outing came against the Saints in week six after he finished having caught all four targets for 57 yards and three first downs during the Patriots' dramatic last-second win over New Orleans. However, his most memorable moment of the year came against the Dolphins in Week 15 when he made a very cool one-handed touchdown, which unfortunately occurred in a losing effort.
Notable Stat of 2013:
When Rob Gronkowski returned to the line-up in Week 7, Hoomanawanui's production dropped off dramatically. To make matters worse, he also suffered a knee injury in Week 11 against the Panthers that kept him out until their week 15 loss down in Miami. But from Gronkowski's first game back up until that loss in Carolina, Gronk caught 24 passes for 343 yards, while Hoomanawanui saw just three targets with two receptions and 19-yards. Over the final three games, aside from the touchdown, he caught just one other pass but he did have three receptions for 39-yards in the playoffs, two of which came in the AFC Championship loss to Denver.
Another significant stat that stands out for Hoomanawanui is the fact that he caught just one of Tom Brady's 112 fourth quarter completions during the 2013 regular season, which came in that week six win over New Orleans.
What to Watch For in 2014:
Expect more of the same from Hoomanawanui in 2014. He's been a terrific asset since he was signed, although he's better suited as a number three tight end and obviously isn't at the level of what Gronkowski gives them, nor is he quite the dynamic player that Hernandez was. But since the team wasn't able to bring in an upper-echelon player this offseason, the job behind Gronkowski remains his to lose and they're lucky to have him. For now he remains as the most dependable player the team has at that position, and there's no doubt that the amount of playing time he experienced last season will certainly help him in 2014.