Bill Belichick often espouses that an NFL player makes his biggest developmental growth spurt between his first and second season. Which is exactly where tight end Jacob Hollister finds himself on the eve of Week 1's opener versus Houston.
Hollister originally made the 53 last year as an undrafted rookie. He went on to appear in 15 of 16 regular season games and one of New England's three playoff contests, but was largely a non-factor as a receiving target. Hollister caught a total of five passes in 2017. After a full offseason in the Patriots program, he's been given a lot more opportunities throughout summer practices and could be on the verge of a much larger role in New England's offense.
"Yeah, I've learned a lot. So, I think confidence comes from learning," Hollister said Thursday. "The more you learn, the more comfortable you get… and I've learned so much from these older guys, and the coaches also. So, that's helped me a lot, and I feel good going into this second season.
"I've definitely improved physically in a lot of ways," he added, "not only with my health, but also my nutrition, knowing my body. And obviously, all the staff around here do a good job. So, that's helped a lot."
The most important lesson Hollister says he's learned in the past year-plus is that, on this team, trust must be earned.
"That's the No. 1 thing," he explained. "It's really like a family atmosphere here, and you have to earn trust from your coaches and teammates… that comes from doing your job every day the right way so they can count on you."
Even though a hamstring has limited Hollister on the field over the past few weeks, he might be among the skill position players that QB Tom Brady and the offense will have to rely on in the passing game as the regular season gets underway.
"Every year, you're going to have new guys in the system, guys leave. So, you always have to adjust to it. That's all we're trying to do," Hollister observed. "Do our best and everybody do what they can."
Late Thursday, the Patriots elected their co-captains for 2018, and according to media reports, there've been some changes to the leadership sextet.
Brady, center David Andrews, safety Devin McCourty, and special teamer Matthew Slater are four returning captains, while running back James White and safety Patrick Chung have been elevated to their posts for the first time.
White and Chung have supplanted tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, and safety Duron Harmon, who served as captains for the first time a year ago.
New England held a walkthrough practice in their indoor practice facility behind Gillette Stadium Thursday. The team also made an alteration to the practice squad, bringing in a former Texans tight end, Stephen Anderson.
It's unclear who among the existing practice squad members was let go to make room for Anderson, but seven of the 10 were seen at one point or another in the facility today.