Like myself, many football fans have a favor towards the tight end position. It should not be surprising, given the versatility of the types of plays they can run:
The blocking proficiency of an offensive lineman…the playmaking ability of a wide receiver…the sheer physical prowess of making a catch, charging down the side, defenders falling from him. It is easy to see why many of us are such enthusiasts.
However, the question remains. Is the tight end position really that important or (gasp) overrated?
I mean let’s face it, the Patriots made the playoffs with what some people were saying was a lack of talent at the position. I do feel that is slightly unfair to Ben Watson. He does deserve credit for coming back to the team after being released and trying. Still, that is definitely the word for the New England Patriots’ tight end game in 2019…“trying.”
So does that answer my own question?
Some of the top teams from 2019 have great depth at the tight end position. They also have the names with high-paid numbers too. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Francisco’s George Kittle are highly paid, tremendous performing tight ends. They also happen to be on the two teams that made the Super Bowl last season.
When the Patriots had the dominant Robert Gronkowski at the peak of his career, New England had an immense tight end game, and well, they won a few Super Bowls too!
Switching gears to the present day, New England’s new quarterback Cam Newton is known for successfully utilizing the tight end position. It just so happens that the Patriots took two rookie tight ends in the third round of the 2020 draft.
So, It’s no secret that I am definitely an ‘in on Izzo’ girl. However, looking at him objectively, you have to admit that Ryan Izzo has performed better in the first two games of 2020 than he did for the whole of 2019. Blocking multiple times for Cam Newton to make runs (while making a couple of catches) shows glimmers of tight end play; and ultimately something that improves the team. What I think is a big disappointment for many Patriots fans is the lack of usage of the third round draft picks, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. We have been teased by the possibility of exciting tight end action!
A possible neck injury has delayed Keene’s start to the season but the lack of use of Devin Asiasi is puzzling. Heading into 2020, I was hearing such good things about Asiasi that I was looking forward to seeing him on the field. Although he has participated, it has been in less than 25% of the last two games and I bore witness to surprisingly, nothing but blocking.
That is not to say that blocking isn’t key, it is severely important. However, it is just not all exciting and shiny and sparkly; especially when Asiasi was rumored to be more of a play-making tight end than a blocker. My point is the tight end position is finally being addressed in Gillette Stadium for 2020. After all, at one stage, New England had seven tight ends (yes, I was beyond excited I’m not ashamed to admit) and that shows it is being viewed as a valuable position. Perhaps, lessons were learned from having no tight ends last year!
And so in conclusion…. as much as I have a fondness for tight ends (yes, you have all heard this by now…let’s move along) it is fair to say that proficiency at the position is not imperative to win games. As with pretty much most player positions, there are ways of working around weaknesses, and that’s what makes football interesting. If every team had a great tight end (I can still hear the odd snicker there in the back) life would be boring. (…or would it?)
As a result, it is fair to say whilst some people might find the tight end position overrated, we cannot in good consciousness and honesty, say it is irrelevant.
So there you have it folks, the final part of my tight end trilogy. Like many movie franchises, I cannot confirm or deny if we will in fact remain content with just three. Needless to say, I shall be back here with another edition of ‘A Clare Perspective’ in the near future; you’ll just have to check it out to see what I write about next.
-Clare L. Cooper is a Special Contributor for Full Press Coverage. Her New England Patriots insight can be found @FPC_Patriots