James Develin played only five snaps in Thursday's preseason opener between the Patriots and the Packers. But in the short time he was on the field, he made his presence felt.

His lead-block in the second quarter -- combined with a an effective pull block from rookie guard Shaq Mason -- opened up a lane for what eventually turned in to a 55-yard touchdown by running back Jonas Gray.

Ever since joining the Patriots in 2012 as a practice-squad player, Develin has made his living by being ready in the few instances in which he may be called upon during a given game. Whether his contributions have come as a blocker, runner, receiver or special-teamer, Develin hasn't necessarily been mistake-free. But he's been close.

During a conference call on Sunday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded Develin for what's allowed him to make his mark on the franchise over the last three seasons.

"James is a tough kid," Belichick said of the Brown alum. "He’s very smart, tough. Assignments are really never a problem with him. He’s been very dependable and durable. He’s physically strong and that helps him as a blocker or occasionally as an inside ball carrier, and he’s got good hands and he catches the ball well.

"So he’s got a lot of things going for him. He works extremely hard and on a day-to-day basis, he’s one of the most dependable players we have."

Listed as a fullback, Develin spends a great deal of time in meetings and during positional drills with Patriots tight ends. As the team has dealt with injuries at that position during training camp, he provides the club with an effective blocker who can also catch the ball, whether it's out of the backfield or elsewhere.


Develin played in only 22.5 percent of New England's offensive snaps in 2014. He also played in 26.6 percent of the team's special-teams snaps.

So why is one of the team's "most dependable players" on the field for less than a quarter of the team's plays from scrimmage?

Develin's role has been relatively specialized. His skill set makes him especially dangerous in short-yardage situations when he may block, run or catch for whatever the Patriots need.

But Belichick's comments on Sunday reaffirm just how important it is to have players who thrive in particular situations even though their overall per-game workload may be a little lighter than that of others.