Added Pressure Put on Rookies
The Patriots are supposed to begin their 2020 training camp in just six days. And this one, if it indeed begins on time will be like no other in their history. All 32 NFL teams are sailing in uncharted waters with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic affecting situations globally. Everything has been thrown into flux.
There have been no OTAs, no rookie or team minicamps and healthy players haven’t even been allowed in the facility. While players were the beneficiaries of “virtual” meetings with the coaches and got mental reps of the playbook, nothing can replace the actual physical reps with conducting reps on the field. The lack of which really puts pressure on the rookies who are trying to learn a new, and often much more complicated system.
Which brings to this year’s training camp. The rookies were supposed to report yesterday, but they have not, it seems the Patriots are in no hurry to bring them in as the tempo for camp this year will be very much slowed down. There will still be a ton of competition among all of the positional groups, once camp does begin in earnest, but today we’ll be looking at the tight ends and the intriguing situations that are facing the team as they approach the 2020 season.
We won’t rehash the details of the very disappointing 2019 season where the Patriots’ tight ends didn’t produce, but it was hardly a surprise. Rob Gronkowski retired (briefly), Dwayne Allen left for Miami and Jacob Hollister was traded away to Seattle. The Patriots brought in former Patriot Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse from Denver, Lance Kendricks, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Andrew Beck to go along with holdovers Stephen Anderson and Ryan Izzo. The team settled on LaCosse and Izzo along with Ben Watson
To add insult to injury, Hollister’s 41 were more than double of Ben Watson’s season total of 17 and more than triple of Matt LaCosse’s 13…Okay, I said we weren’t going to do that.
Knowing that they need to address the position, the Patriots double-dipped at tight end in the draft, taking UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the 3rd round of the draft. This move was reminiscent of 2010 when the team took Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez that spring. Expectations immediately increased, perhaps unfairly because comparing anyone, especially a rookie to Gronkowski, puts them in a tough situation.
Projected 53-man Roster:
As we mentioned above, expectations are high for the two rookie tight ends and we believe that in time, they will both become integral parts of the offense, possibly even by the end of this season.
However, as we also pointed out, the rookies have had no OTAs, no rookie minicamp, no full team minicamp, no on-field activities at all. Learning the Patriots intricate passing scheme is not going to be easy and it will remain to be seen if they can both assimilate into the offense in time for the season to start. With no preseason games to compete in, it makes the jump even harder.
But by the virtue of their draft positions, Asiasi and Keene are 53-man roster locks. So then it comes down to how many tight ends will the team keep? With so many difficult decisions to make across the roster, it won’t be an easy one. With the “news” last night that NFL is limiting the number of players that can begin training camp to 80, (and we reported more than 10 days ago), both Burt and Berry, could conceivably find themselves out of a job without ever having a chance to compete. Although we had both of them as long-shots to make the roster.
Asiasi is going to be the Y-Tight End or the inline receiver/blocker who has the physicality, sure handedness, and athleticism to succeed in the NFL, he should be a staple of the offense for years to come. Keene is more of “Move TE” and could be utilized in a number of different ways.
Normally, the team keeps three tight ends. So, LaCosse and Izzo are basically competing for one spot. Neither was productive in the passing game last year, and both were a disappointment in the blocking department as well. But LaCosse has an edge over Izzo in the receiving department, so he’d get the nod here. Although the team needs a much better 2020 from both.
However, if the Patriots deem that neither Asiasi nor Keene is ready to assume the mantle of being full-time contributors to the offense, that throws a huge monkey wrench into the entire plan. If the team has to rely on the veterans in the early going of the season, which is a real possibility, then it could mean an extra tight end makes the roster.
Or the coaches could decide to use one of the fullbacks currently on the roster, Danny Vitale, or Jakob Johnson to take on some added onus in the offense.
The outlook for the future at the tight end position is much brighter with the two rookies picked up in the draft, however, it may take them a while to get untracked. Stay tuned.
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots 53-man Roster Projection
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Dalton Keene Devin Asiasi Jake Burt Matt Lacosse New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots tight ends Rashod Berry Ryan Izzo