The March second singing of Russ Hochstein earlier this year went relatively unnoticed by the masses in New England. As this years draft came and went the move has become a bit more important, however.
Hochstein now projects to have many important roles for the 2009 Patriots. The utility man has proven his value in the past playing on the offensive line when the injury bug has struck, as a blocking tight end in some packages, and even serving time as the long snapper on special teams.
The most intruiging position Hochstein has filled to date is the fullback position. He debuted there in the shelling of the Arizona Cardinals late last season.
Faced with weather conditions that included non-stop snow for most of the day the Patriots started their late December game in the power, or "I", formation. With Matt Cassel under center Dan Koppen and running back Sammy Morris behind them there wasn't a thing awkward about the setup—minus the 6'4 305-pounder playing fullback.
The Patriots had elected to start an offensive linemen at fullback, and, while initially surprising, the move made a lot of sense once the running game got going. Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan combined for 168 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
When asked of his thoughts on Hochstein's new position Morris responded with, "He's 300 pounds...He's either going to blow someone up or they gotta run around him."
Hochstein's move proved successful and apparently isn't all that different from the role he vacated.
"Just like [blocking on the offensive line], you're just trying to go the right way, hit the right person, sustain, and finish the block," he said. "That's all I can do. I'm trying to help the guys out behind me by making the hit quick and making it fast, while making sure they see who I'm getting."
This season the Patriots have themselves a returning Brady, a crowded backfield, and, technically, no fullback. Heath Evans signed with New Orleans in the off-season, but with no aquisitions the Patriots are proving they're comfortable with what they've got at the position in Hochstein.
Predominantly, this team passes first, or in the football sense, runs to set up the pass. So the fullback position doesn't necessarily project to be used as often as it would on a more run-oriented offense. It's important, nonetheless, as we saw in that snow game versus Arizona, and it seems we have a more than capable option in Russ Hochstein.