It’s time for the Patriots and Bill Belichick to find quarterback Cam Newton a competent tight end.
For as much conviction as Cam Newton has in the Patriots’ current collection of wide receivers, it doesn’t change the fact that they form one of the least dynamic corps in the NFL. When they struggle to create separation from defenders, he’s forced to check down to whomever is manning the backfield because there is no security blanket present in the form of a tight end.
If we learned anything from Newton’s nine-year run in Carolina, it’s that he loved throwing to his tight ends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Greg Olsen was the Panthers’ leading receiver in three separate seasons with Newton under center. In fact, he averaged a ridiculous 76 receptions for 968 yards and five touchdowns from 2012 to 2016
Simply put, we could see Newton take on an entirely new level of greatness if the Patriots were to equip him with a reliable tight end. This predicament only amplifies their shocking refusal to find the long-term successor to Rob Gronkowski, so why not knock out two birds with one stone?
Patriots tight ends have combined to log three receptions for 44 yards through the first three weeks of the season. As crazy as it sounds, those numbers belong solely to Ryan Izzo, a 2018 seventh-round pick who had just six receptions across the first two years of his NFL career.
With all due respect to the third-year pro, he’s better suited being utilized as a blocking specialist, a role with which he is familiar and excels at. If Belichick believes the Patriots can make a deep playoff run, he simply can’t have a former afterthought playing close to 90% of the offensive snaps and running the majority of the routes at tight end.
At this point, fans in New England should forfeit any hope they had in the supposed promising rookie class to make an impact in 2020. Dalton Keene has been bothered by a neck injury and has yet to appear in a game. He returned to practice on a limited basis last Friday, so it’s possible we see him suited up for Week 4, though he likely wouldn’t be given a prominent role.
Devin Asiasi, meanwhile, has been a full participant in practices the last several weeks, but has played a measly 10 snaps this season. He’s been largely deployed as a blocker and has yet to be targeted in the passing game.
The Patriots’ lack of production from the tight end position is going to impede Newton from reaching his ceiling. To think the Auburn product almost toppled Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on the road back in Week 2 without an NFL-caliber starting TE and his defense nowhere to be found proved that Belichick’s side can compete with the league’s best teams.
However, they will fall well short of achieving their goal(s) if the 68-year-old GM doesn’t find his superstar quarterback a competent tight end. There’s plenty of time remaining before the 2020 trade deadline, and the Patriots — assuming they don’t pursue a blockbuster trade for a wideout — have zero excuse not to strike a deal for a tight end.