While it hasn’t translated yet to the game field, New England Patriots rookie tight end Devin Asiasi has impressed his positional coach Nick Caley in practice.
Asiasi has played 71 snaps over four games but hasn’t been targeted yet in the passing game. He’s served as a run blocker 31 times, ran 20 routes and pass blocked six times. The 2020 third-round pick was considered a complete tight end coming out of UCLA, so it’s surprising that he hasn’t been utilized more as a receiver.
“It happens the way the games play out,” Caley said Friday. “Dating back to training camp, Devin does a good job route-running wise. He has production in practice going back to early training camp. He’s not just a one-trick pony from that regard. He’s working hard at both facets of his game. Not just in the run blocking. Obviously, that’s critically important but also as a route-runner too.
“I don’t think there’s anything particular one way or the other, other than we just have to keep working to improve in general based on how the gameplan dictates things. I think that generally plays off of that as far as role of the game, in terms of reps, in terms of situation in the game, so on and so forth. I think the games, it’s just a little bit different. Sometimes the flow of whether it’s a substitution pattern or not goes the way you envisioned it. And sometimes, like anything else, you change course early because of something either — maybe it’s a roster deal or maybe it’s the way you’re being played or vice versa.”
Caley refuted the idea that the Patriots were easing Asiasi into a receiving role by focusing on his blocking prowess first.
“Speaking, at least from our standpoint, we don’t really want to have a guy that can just do one thing,” Caley said. “Then you become predictable and things like that. We try to get them a well-rounded background and we’re always trying to work on run and pass fundamentals, and that’s pass protection too. It’s kind of a three-faceted approach there in terms of the skill development piece of it. But, no, we want to have a balanced tight end. We want to have a balanced skill set where we can change gears and flip and be multiple and do things and really play off of each other and have some position flexibility within our unit.”
Asiasi caught 44 passes for 641 yards with four touchdowns at UCLA last season. He flashed impressive athleticism, running a 4.73-second 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine at 6-foot-3, 257 pounds.
Asiasi should eventually contribute as a receiver, but the pertinent question is when? That remains to be answered, but it’s a good sign that Asiasi is at least still impressing in practice.