Patriots gave both rookie tight ends a chance in loss to Dolphins
By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the Patriots now officially eliminated from the postseason, we’ll likely see their roster usage change in the coming weeks. Bill Belichick went as far as telling reporters that “it could be a possibility in a certain situation” to use the final two games of the season to evaluate younger players.
Knowing that, let’s take what’s likely one last look at the 2020 Patriots usage in a competitive game. Here’s the overall snap counts, before getting into a few positions that stood out.
With Damien Harris out, Sony Michel got a chance back in the spotlight and made the most of it. He played 42 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps, his highest usage rate of the season so far. His 10 carries were also tied for a season high, with his 7.4 yards per carry mark being his second-best of the year. With his fifth-year option on the table this offseason, a strong finish to the season is key for the 25-year-old. Sunday was a good start to that.
Despite only having three running backs active, the Patriots stuck mainly with Michel and James White. Rookie UDFA J.J. Taylor saw his first game action since Week 3, but it wasn’t much. He played five total snaps, most coming on a single drive midway through the third quarter. With just one carry and one target (that was wiped out by a penalty), it appears the team isn’t ready to go all-in on Taylor just yet, as has been the case with rookie running backs in the past.
Sunday marked only the second time both Patriots rookie tight ends were active for the same game, and the first time they both played over 40 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. It was the most extensive look we’ve gotten of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene so far this year.
However, like most of the Patriots passing offense, they weren’t able to contribute much. The duo was targeted a combined three times, with a two-yard grab by Keene being the only catch. Asiasi let a check down slip through his hands early in the game, and Keene didn’t quite have the vertical to grab a Cam Newton fade in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Overall it was another quiet day for the Patriots’ tight end position, which has been the least productive unit in the league. There’s still two games to go, but right now it looks like Belichick could have to heavily invest in the position for the second offseason in a row.
With Ja’Whaun Bentley leaving the game early due to an injury, second-year UDFA Terez Hall played a career-high 88 percent of the Patriots’ snaps against the Dolphins. Hall’s stock has been rising since he made his NFL debut in Week 9 as a practice squad elevation, and was signed to the active roster two weeks later.
It’s hard to say Hall played ‘well’ given the Dolphins ran for 250 yards, but he projects to be a piece of the rebuilt Patriots’ defensive front going forwards. The more playing time he gets, the better. We’ll see how he rebounds next week against another strong ground team in the Buffalo Bills.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.