Patriots Fullback Joey Iosefa Is a Battering Ram

Wait, who?

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Last week, nary a Patriots fan had heard of fullback Joey Iosefa. But on Sunday, he was arguably the most talked about player after New England’s win over the Tennessee Titans.

Iosefa, who was signed off the practice squad Saturday, led the Patriots with 14 carries and 51 yards in their 33-16 victory against the Titans at Gillette Stadium. His signature play of the afternoon—and perhaps a metaphor for how the game went down—came late in the second quarter when the 247-pound American Samoan bulldozed Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh for a 15-yard gain.

Iosefa was called on to replace injured running back LeGarrette Blount, who was recently placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Blount has enjoyed a number of signature moments over the last couple of years when the calendar turns to winter, including a two-touchdown effort against the Ravens in Week 16 of the 2013 campaign and a three-touchdown, 148-yard performance against the Indianapolis Colts that postseason. The seven-year bruiser averaged 4.3 yards per carry this year before landing on IR.

Blount represented an important contrast to the elusive James White, who led the team with 71 receiving yards Sunday and appears poised to step in for Dion Lewis’ as the team’s third down back. It seems as if Iosefa is primed to take Blount’s place.

Iosefa’s emergence is surprising, given that the seventh-round pick from the University of Hawaii didn’t even receive a single carry in the preseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs released Iosefa at the end of training camp to little fanfare and he signed on with the Brooklyn Bolts of the Fall Experimental Football League before New England brought him to its practice squad in October.

The Next Man Up slogan is a cliché, and, as the Patriots have shown over the last two months, it isn’t always true. When a player of the caliber of Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, or linebacker Dont’a Hightower goes down with an injury, there’s no replacing them. But when it comes to filling some of the ancillary pieces on the roster, Bill Belichick has a knack for finding guys who can seamlessly step in.

Iosefa is the latest example of that. He’s not a star, but could end up being one of the keys to a Patriots playoff win in January—much like Blount was two years ago. He certainly played a big role in the Patriots’ victory  over the Titans Sunday afternoon and moved them in position to clinch the No. 1 seed.