Devin Asiasi has been active for all five games thus far into his rookie season with the New England Patriots.
But the 6-foot-3, 257-pound tight end out of UCLA has yet to be targeted in the passing game.
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton provided a progress report as well as a nickname on Thursday.
“Acai Bowl!” Newton said of Asiasi during his video conference with the media. “He’s a young player that’s getting it. And hopefully we get an opportunity – or you guys, or everybody sees his growth and maturation over these last couple days and weeks – and he gets involved in the gameplan.”
Asiasi, 23, started a dozen contests as a redshirt junior for the Bruins last fall. The former four-star Michigan Wolverines recruit gathered 44 receptions for 641 yards and four touchdowns on the way to becoming an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
And behind only Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet to the Chicago Bears, Asiasi became the second tight end to hear his name called in the 2020 NFL draft. At No. 91 overall, he became the New England war room’s top draft investment at the position since current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Rob Gronkowski a decade prior.
Asiasi has been on the field for 81 offensive snaps in the months since then. He’s had his number dialed as a blocker on 50 of those opportunities, according to Pro Football Focus, while getting out to run 31 routes.
“I even told him — just like I tell all the receivers and skill-position players — let’s not get into that habit of thinking you only can be productive because of how many catches you get,” added Newton. “I think that’s the immature way of thinking. Production comes when you’re asked to do something, how do you fare up against what your assignment was?”
Time will tell whether the assignment shifts as five-year, $75 million All-Pro tight end George Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers visit Gillette Stadium.
Kittle stands with 30 catches for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns this campaign for San Francisco. In contrast, New England’s tight ends — combining for a league-low $2.656 million in spending this campaign, per OverTheCap.com — stand with six catches for 82 yards and no touchdowns.
A 2018 seventh-round selection in Ryan Izzo has been the lone contributor to that receiving total. The incumbent starter on the depth chart has drawn 11 throws and fumbled last weekend versus the Denver Broncos.
It was an 18-12 defeat that saw Asiasi step in for 42% of the offensive downs. It was a defeat that saw him find openings underneath. There would be no third tight end active as fellow rookie Dalton Keene, a Virginia Tech product taken 10 draft slots later, still awaits his Patriots debut.
The acclimation can be gradual. The next step in it for Asiasi is set to arrive at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.
Newton will have a hand in what follows.
“He’s a guy who’s getting coached hard each and every day, and he knows what the standard is,” said Newton. “Obviously, the guy who was here prior to him knows exactly what they’re expecting from that position. And I do believe I have full faith in not only Devin, but everybody that’s in that room. So, when their number is called, I don’t blink. Just give them the opportunity when it’s given.”
Source: Forbes – Business