Hoomanawanui makes his case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As the Patriots stockpiled tight ends this past offseason, Michael Hoomanawanui was one of the last to walk through the doors at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots signed him to a one-year, $540,000 contract off the Redskins’ practice squad Sept. 5, and based on his play, he’s making a strong case to stick around in 2013 and beyond.

Hoomanawanui’s rise was detailed after Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Jaguars, a game in which he had two receptions for 46 yards, the second coming on the Patriots’ final drive when he made the intelligent decision to stay in bounds along the left sideline on third-and-4. The play went for 14 yards, picked up the first down and sliced the time the Jaguars eventually would have for a final drive.

The third-year target drew a crowd of reporters to his locker after the game, and the larger role he has been playing on offense the past three weeks (132 of his 236 snaps this season) was broached.

“I’ve always known what I can do and what I can contribute,” he said. “On different teams, roles are different. I just said from day one, I’m here to do whatever they need me to do to be successful as a team. Earlier weeks it was this, and later weeks it was that -- whether it be fullback, in-line tight end, off-line tight end. ... It just goes back to being a professional whenever your number is called upon.”

Hoomanawanui, who played the first years of his career with the Rams before his brief stay on the Redskins' practice squad, is likely to see a decline in playing time when Rob Gronkowski returns to action, which could come this week.

But he has seized his opportunity to put himself into the 2013 mix as a restricted free agent. A look at his snap-count progression shows how his usage in 2012 has fluctuated:

at Titans: 10

vs. Cardinals: 20

at Ravens: 18

at Bills: 7

vs. Broncos: 0

at Seahawks: 0

vs. Jets: 3

at Rams: 16

vs. Bills: 8

vs. Colts: 15

at Jets: 3

at Dolphins: 4

vs. Texans: 43

vs. 49ers: 40

at Jaguars: 49