It may be fair to say the Patriots team of 2019 was carried by their defense. The offensive side of the football was definitely not as successful as years prior. The record books will show the year starting on par for the team, but ultimately ending with a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Wildcard Weekend. Who could forget what is now being remembered as Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot?
As the season began, a few dependable offensive staples were placed on injured reserve which greatly impacted the team. Starting center, David Andrews, would remain out for the entirety of the season. Shortly thereafter, starting fullback, James Develin, would be placed on injured reserve (IR) after the first two weeks. N’Keal Harry would start his season on that list as well, and the team would get only one game out of their shocking signing of Antonio Brown.
In October, Mohamed Sanu was traded from the Falcons and many hoped his addition to the team would add the help they needed. But, as we saw, much of the offensive production fell on the shoulders of Tom Brady’s favorite target, Julian Edelman. Despite playing through a slew of injuries, Edelman had one of, if not the best year of his career.
Many excuses can be made for this mediocre offense However, no excuse is better than the truth. The struggles on offense cannot be blamed on one player. They did not seem to gel together in the way they traditionally would. With the 2020 season right around the corner, it is anticipated the offense will have a much more successful year. There will be a new quarterback under center, great new additions to the team (also key players returning from injury) and a few guys who will have a breakout season.
One name that has been in the discussion is N’Keal Harry. Coming out of college, the excitement for Harry was high. Being drafted by the Patriots made it even more so. The pressure was on when Belichick decided for the first time as the head coach of New England to draft a wide receiver in the first round. If Belichick does something that out of character, you know he must really like the kid.
Unfortunately for Harry, his season did not start out the way he had hoped. After only two catches in the first preseason game, Harry suffered an injury which took him out of the game. It ultimately landed him on IR for a good portion of the regular season. After rehabbing his injury, he was finally able to play as a pro. At the end of the year, Harry scored two touchdowns with a total of 105 yards. He also contributed five rushes for 49 yards and four first downs. With only having the opportunity to play in 7 games his rookie season, the sample size is small. But with good health comes the opportunity to improve.
N’Keal will have a breakout 2020 season. He has been training this offseason in a monster way, working with Jarrett Stidham and new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. We have seen the videos posted on social media of him working all over the country with many trainers, including the man known as, “the footwork king.” Mobility and speed appear to be key parts of his training regimen and with those improvements, he will be an even better player. Things will be vastly different now that Tom Brady has moved to Tampa, and the uncertainty of who will be the starting quarterback. But seeing his potential as well as referencing his college career, it’s best not to bet against N’Keal Harry in 2020.
When Rob Gronkowski retired after the 2018 season, the tight ends on the Patriots seemed nonexistent. This left the team vulnerable without having a big body to make plays as well as help block when needed. As we’ve seen, it is difficult to fill a position recently held by a guy said to be the best to ever play it.
The Patriots made sure to address this issue in the draft. In the third round, Devin Asiasi was selected from UCLA. He is entering the league after a much improved 2019 season and looking to bring even more to the Patriots. In his last season, Devin played in 12 games, having 44 receptions for 641 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fortunately for the Pats, this is far more production than the tight ends on the team had last year combined. He has been compared to some of the top tight ends in the league in Austin Hooper and Zach Ertz, and if he can bring that type of game to the Pats, it would be a massive improvement for the team.
Devin may have big shoes to fill, but like others, he is quite the versatile player. Now that Matt LaCosse has opted out of the season, Asiasi will compete to be the starting tight end on the team. The good thing for the Patriots? He is a great overall tight end and could even help in the fullback position. With James Develin out last season and then announcing his retirement, the Patriots really missed his presence on the field. Asiasi can help fix that gap with his mobility and his blocking. On the receiving side, he has the potential to help the team with his route running abilities and athleticism. At 6’3” and 258 pounds, he is difficult to defend and will make plays no matter who takes over at quarterback.
The Patriots offense will inevitably be different than most will remember. With a new quarterback brings different plays and new excitement for players and fans alike. Due to COVID-19 and the precautions being taken to ensure player safety, there will be no preseason this year. These young players will have to show what they can bring to the team in a short period of time. The potential for both N’Keal Harry and Devin Asiasi is quite high, and this year is the perfect opportunity for them to help recharge the Patriots offense. There is much improvement needed on this side of the ball and 2020 is sure going to be a big year for them.
[Photo credits to Boston Herald and Patriots Wire]
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @saramarxo