Who is Garrett Mills?
Mills is a versatile tight end out of Tulsa who fits the role of H-Back well. He has the ability to be a blocking fullback, a blocking tight end and a receiver. His biggest asset is that he's quick enough to cause mismatches against linebackers, even safeties or nickel cover safeties that are assigned to keep up with him.
When Mills first arrived in New England, many wondered what type of role he could fill. Some envisioned a younger, more versatile Patrick Pass. Others thought he could be the type of tight end that scared defenses because of his ability to get open in the secondary. In truth, Mills was a little of both. One thing he wasn't though was a blocking tight end.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Tulsa product is certainly able to embarrass linebackers in coverage. New England Patriots observers saw a little of what Mills could do last year in camp before he was hurt. This year, Mills came back with the same ability to catch passes either out of the backfield or from the line. He is big enough to move a lighter linebacker off the line in goal-line situations as evidenced in Thursday's game against the Giants when he cleared the path on a couple of crucial runs.
The issue for most teams willing to keep Mills on the roster is where to play him. He can be a fullback, but he's not the best blocker at the position. He can play tight end, but he would get overpowered by some of the league's defensive ends, and his inability to slow them down enough could get the quarterback sacked or even hurt.
If you use him as an offensive weapon, Mills can be a star. If you have to rely on him being in more of a protection-based role (blocking), then he probably isn't your guy, even though he can block.
For New England, Mills was healthy at the wrong time. New England has moved from primarily a two-tight end based system to more of a receiver-based attack with Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and crew in tow. If the team keeps tight ends, it's mainly for protection on one side with a receiving/blocking option on the other. Look at Ben Watson and Kyle Brady and you can see what New England looks for at the position. One (Brady) can maul defenders at the line, destroying their ability to get to pressure on the quarterback. The other (Watson) can block or release on a blitz adjustment and becomes a major threat to turn a short pass into a big gain. Mills didn't fit either role and therefore became expendable.
If the Patriots kept Mills, something we hear they really wanted to do, then he would have had to split time with Heath Evans at the fullback position. As it stands, our understanding of his release was to get him to the practice squad, which they weren't able to do.
The Versatile Garrett Mills
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