FOXBORO – The starting two tight ends for the New England Patriots are set. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry inked major deals two off-season’s ago and are set to contribute in major ways in this upcoming season.
The rest of the positional group is a mystery though.
At first glance, Devin Asiasi would be the choice to back up Smith and Henry. He is the one who made the 53-man roster last season after a rocky rookie season, although he was inactive for the majority of the year. The former UCLA and Michigan product plays the more traditional tight end role, but has struggled to pop during training camp.
“Devin has had a lot of improvement,” head coach Bill Belichick said last Tuesday. “I think he’s made a good jump this year. Physically he looks good … He’s tracking well.”
While Asiasi has been getting a lot of the reps at the third tight end spot, his role is all, but guaranteed.
The other tight end that was taken during the 2020 draft is also gunning for the third spot on the team. Dalton Keene is an outlier when discussing the Patriots offense. He plays more of an h-back role, incorporating more of a fullback style into his game. But the Patriots have reportedly removed the fullback from their offensive repertoire, so what can Keene do for this team?
Based on a press conference that Belichick had with the media after the 2020 draft, the Patriots might even know how to incorporate Keene into the offense.
“I mean, when you watch Dalton play, you just don’t see a lot of things that we do,” Belichick said. “The Virginia Tech offense didn’t really translate too much to a New England Patriot offense. That’s not uncommon with other players as well. It is what it is. I think the things you saw him do, which was his blocking, his effort to block, his toughness, ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, and certainly the intent of the offense to get him the ball was impressive.”
The final man in the equation is Matt Sokol, who the team claimed off of waivers earlier this spring. He has had a forgettable summer thus far, dropping multiple passes during the practice sessions. While the team took a flier on Sokol, he will need to have an otherworldly performance during the three preseason games to even crack the opening roster.
Combined, these three players have career statistics that are not pleasing to look at: 18 games, five catches, one touchdown.
Safe to say that the Patriots will need to get the production from the top two tight ends and not rely on depth this season.