NFL Rumors: Are Patriots Losing Confidence In Their Rookie Tight Ends?

Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene essentially have made zero impact

by Dakota Randall

October 13, 2020

Thus far, the New England Patriots have received next to nothing from their rookie tight ends.

Third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, the latter of whom was selected after an unprecedented draft-day trade by Bill Belichick, entered the 2020 season with somewhat high expectations, almost out of necessity. After Matt LaCosse opted out, Ryan Izzo, a decidedly meh player, was the only tight end on New England’s roster with anything resembling NFL experience. So, the Patriots needed something from their rookie tight ends, especially when you factored in the receiving corps’ issues with getting open and making explosive plays.

The early training camp reports on Asiasi and Keene largely were positive, raising optimism that at least one of them would have a significant role early on. But while there might be better days ahead for both players, neither has contributed anything noteworthy to this point.

Keene, a Virginia Tech product viewed as a potential fullback/tight end hybrid, missed the first three games with a neck injury and was inactive in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs despite being eligible to return. As for Asiasi, the former UCLA standout has been on the field a handful of times but not once has been targeted.

So, what gives?

Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard recently offered some insight into the situation.

In a column published Sunday, Bedard suggested some around the Patriots are losing confidence in both Asiasi and Keene — not just for this season, but beyond.

“While it can’t be ruled out that Asiasi and Keene could contribute at some point — and perhaps this bye week will help settle them down and get them going in the right direction — there is not much enthusiasm internally that will happen anytime soon, if at all,” Bedard wrote.

He also tweeted this reply to a Twitter follower’s question:

Additionally, Bedard, during the latest episode of his “Patriots Podcast,” discussed Asiasi’s rookie woes.

“The only thing I’ve been able to ascertain from people around the team,” Bedard said, ” … At some point for every rookie, it’s not a ‘rookie wall,’ but it’s a ‘rookie realization’ of where you are, who you’re playing against, how hard it’s going to be. For some people, especially the younger kids of today … they’ve been used to things coming to them easy and quickly. … They aren’t used to encountering adversity. … And some kids, once they encounter that adversity, they don’t know what to do.

” … Right now, Asiasi’s having a tough time with that. He just is. As coaches, you have to find the right buttons to push to get a kid to push through that, and so far (the Patriots coaches) haven’t.”

Added Bedard: “But they have not lost hope in him.”

Of course, the Patriots’ apparent concerns with Keene and Asiasi hardly indicate they view either as a bust. It’s not as if New England historically has been an easy place to play for rookies on either side of the ball. Furthermore, if both tight ends essentially red shirt this season but turn into major contributors next year, they would not be the first such players to do so for the Patriots.

Nevertheless, it’s fair to wonder whether Belichick missed the mark in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. If nothing else, it’s probably time to consider looking for outside help in an attempt to get something from the tight end position this season.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots
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