It’s completely understandable if you’ve written off New England Patriots rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene for the season after they’ve combined for one catch on two targets for 8 yards through 14 weeks.
But if you’re looking for one more glimmer of hope that Asiasi or Keene could break out before the 2020 season is over, head coach Bill Belichick provided it during Wednesday morning’s news conference.
“It’s good to have them back out there,” Belichick said. “Last week, they had a little more playing time but unfortunately it didn’t correlate into more practice time or quality practice time because of the schedule we were on. So, we’ll see how it goes here as they get more experience and reps at what they’re doing, and then how that transfers over into the games.”
Keene was activated off injured reserve on Dec. 5, one day before the Patriots took on the Los Angeles Chargers. Ryan Izzo started at tight end but left the game with an injury, giving way to Keene playing 23 snaps in the Patriots’ 45-0 win. Asiasi was activated off of injured reserve and Izzo was placed on IR on Dec. 10, the same day the Patriots lost 24-3 to the Los Angeles Rams. The Patriots only held walkthroughs last week given the short turnaround time between games against LA teams. Keene played 31 snaps while Asiasi saw the field for 23 offensive plays, and only Asiasi was targeted. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s pass to the rookie tight end was broken up by Rams cornerback Troy Hill.
“Both guys missed some time there right in the middle of the season after they had gotten started and had made some progress,” Belichick said. “And then weren’t able to continue and now have resumed full activity, so hopefully we can make progress every day. We’ll just have to see how it all works out here.”
Starters typically take almost all first-team reps in Patriots practices. So, Asiasi and Keene’s practice time has likely been limited throughout their rookie seasons while only serving reserve roles until last week (when the Patriots barely practiced).
Maybe Asiasi or Keene can serve a bigger role in the passing game this week against the Miami Dolphins with a full week of practice. It seems unlikely at this point given their lack of production, but it’s possible. Izzo can’t return until Week 17, so the Patriots’ rookie tight ends will have at least two weeks to show what they can provide in a starting role.