FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts. — It’s been six weeks since the New England Patriots committed their 17th offense. The week against the New York Jets was forgotten, although a significant event occurred on that day that may have helped answer one of the team’s biggest questions.
Rookie Devin Asiasi was the best player of the season with a 26-yard pass for a touchdown. He said: I think that gives a little incentive and confidence for the off-season; it’s definitely something to build on.
The tight game has been a black hole in the Patriots’ offense for the past two years, a period also known as Life After Gronk [Rob Gronkowski]. This could very well be the team’s biggest need in the offseason, besides the quarterback.
Asiasi had a difficult first season after the Patriots traded him to UCLA in the third round, but the promise he showed in the final round (e.g., good run, reliable arm) showed that he could still be a piece in a larger scheme to make the position relevant again.
Finisher Devin Asiasi, a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2020, started three games last season and caught two balls for 39 yards and a touchdown. Billy Weiss/Getty Images
Combine him with a high-level free agent like Hunter Henry (Chargers) or Jonna Smith (Titans), who takes the pressure off of waiting for the Asians, and the complex of how the end is viewed in the Patriots’ offense might look different in 2021.
And if Henry or Smith are too expensive or sign elsewhere, there should be other notable options to consider, based on ESPN’s analysis of NFL journalists representing league players who would benefit from a fresh start. The group of 32 players consisted of seven shock teams.
To find out the extent to which the tight game has disappeared from the Patriots’ offense, see this report by Doug Clauson of Stats & Information from ESPN :
- The Patriots tight ends have gotten the fewest receptions (55), yards (673), targets (87) and touchdowns (3) in the NFL over the past two seasons.
- The Patriots had 18 receptions in 2020, the lowest number of any team since 2016 (18).
The Patriots led the NFL with receiving yards (11,773) and touchdowns (120) from tight ends.
Michael Lombardi, who was an assistant coach with the Patriots from 2014 to 2015, pointed out on WEEI sports radio how hollow he was : The Patriots need a player who can really, really challenge the midfield, as they have done in the past with Gronk and other teams. So I would go with the tight-tip outdoor receiver.
Resources were not a problem for New England. Since 2010, the Patriots have played seven tight games, tied with seven other teams for the most in the NFL. Last year, the Patriots were one of two teams to tie multiple times (along with the Seattle Seahawks). New England will have at least eight picks in April’s draft, and the Patriots may have another tight target. Potential candidates for this position in New England include Kyle Pitts of Florida, Pat Freiermuth of Penn and Hunter Long of Boston College.
They also traded veterans Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen over the past decade and contracted Matt LaCosse, who is scheduled to start the 2020 season and could still be part of the Patriots’ plans this year.
One of their draft picks, pitcher Ryan Izzo (seventh round, 2018), is recovering from a neck injury and plays a role in the depth of the mix. The same goes for Dalton Keene, who could become a versatile Swiss Army knife in an ideal Patriots world.
New England was the place that defined the perfection of the end.
The question of whether he can regain this high status is the main topic of the off-season.