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Patriots vs Dolphins rookie review: New England’s rookie tight ends continue to disappoint

Related: Unsung heroes from the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots’ Week 15 game against the Miami Dolphins was a disappointment, with the team coming up short 22-12 to see its already small playoff hopes officially go up in flames. It was another inconsistent performance by the team as a whole, with the rookie class being no exceptions: while some of its member stood out in Miami, others had relatively quiet performances.

With that being said, let’s review the first-year players’ performances against the Dolphins.

OT Michael Onwenu

  • Offensive snaps: 55 of 55 (100%)
  • Special teams snaps: 4 of 22 (18%)

The sixth-round draft pick started his ninth straight game at right tackle, and once again played a mostly solid game — especially as a pass protector: Onwenu did not surrender a single quarterback pressure on 32 dropbacks, and continued to showcase his excellent athleticism and chemistry with right guard Shaq Mason. However, he was a bit more shaky in the running game and was not always able to generate an adequate push up the field.

OT Justin Herron

  • Offensive snaps: 55 of 55 (100%)
  • Special teams snaps: 4 of 22 (18%)

After being used in a rotational capacity alongside Jermaine Eluemunor the last few weeks, Justin Herron took over as the Patriots’ starting left tackle against the Dolphins and went wire-to-wire. Herron also had some ups and downs, but overall was more inconsistent in both the running and the passing game than fellow sixth-round selection Michael Onwenu. His two quarterback disruptions — one sack and one hurry — in particular stood out.

LB Anfernee Jennings

  • Defensive snaps: 45 of 73 (62%)
  • Special teams snaps: 12 of 22 (55%)

With number one off-the-ball linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley leaving the game in the first quarter because of an arm injury, Jennings was given a higher workload than usual. He ended up playing the second most defensive snaps of his young career, being used primarily in the box but also moving down to the line on select occasions. The third-round pick was again shaky at times, especially in coverage, but he did look a lot more comfortable than he did a week ago in Los Angeles.

On top of his defensive contributions, Jennings also played 12 snaps in the kicking game. He was part of both return teams and also employed in the place kicking operation both on offense and defense.

S Kyle Dugger

  • Defensive snaps: 39 of 73 (53%)
  • Special teams snaps: 15 of 22 (68%)

On a disappointing day for the Patriots defense — the unit surrendered 250 rushing yards and failed to make the crucial stops — Dugger was among the few bright spots. The team’s highest draft pick this year played a smaller role than the last few weeks, but he performed well whenever on the field: he forced an incompletion on his lone passing target and also finished with two stuffed runs while once again playing primarily closer to the line of scrimmage.

Just like Jennings, Dugger also had a heavy workload in the kicking game. The 24-year-old played on both return teams and both coverage squad, finishing the game with one special teams tackle. The second-round rookie is turning into a key contributor, and valuable member of the team.

TE Dalton Keene

  • Offensive snaps: 29 of 55 (53%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

With Ryan Izzo still out, the Patriots decided to again split their tight end reps between rookies Keene and Devin Asiasi. The former was the nominal TE1, being on the field for 29 snaps. However, he was hardly a difference maker. His run blocking remains a work in progress, while he failed to reel in a well-placed jump pass from Cam Newton — a disappointing look for a player whose athleticism was touted during the draft process.

When Keene did catch the ball on a 4-yard reception in the fourth quarter, he promptly fumbled it. While New England running back James White recovered, the play was a perfect encapsulation of the third-round pick’s rookie season so far: it’s a struggle.

TE Devin Asiasi

  • Offensive snaps: 27 of 55 (49%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

Devin Asiasi, who played 27 snaps as the second tight end alongside Keene, did not fare any better than his teammate. He did look a bit more in control as a run blocker, but also had a bad play in the passing game: Asiasi was the target of a first-down pass, and although the pass was a bit high certainly one you would expect and NFL-level tight end to catch. Asiasi did not, however, despite no defenders anywhere near him. He was not targeted again and remains without a catch at this point in his career.

LB Josh Uche

  • Defensive snaps: 20 of 73 (27%)
  • Special teams snaps: 5 of 22 (23%)

Josh Uche was a bit more quiet against Miami than the previous two weeks, but he still showed his immense promise as a rotational edge defender in New England’s scheme. Playing primarily on the edge again, but also being used as an inside linebacker on a handful of snaps, Uche generated a good push as a pass rusher and also held his own when playing the run and dropping back into coverage. His lone blemish were his two missed tackles.

CB/S Myles Bryant

  • Defensive snaps: 8 of 73 (11%)
  • Special teams snaps: 5 of 22 (23%)

One week after recording his first career interception, Myles Bryant had a quiet game against the Dolphins. He was on the field for just eight snaps, with all but one of them coming in a safety alignment. The undrafted free agent finished the contest with a pair of tackles, but otherwise did not catch the eye — which is not necessarily a bad thing for a young player near the bottom of the depth chart.

Bryant’s five special teams snaps, meanwhile, came all on kickoff coverage.

RB J.J. Taylor

  • Offensive snaps: 5 of 55 (9%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

With Damien Harris not making the trip to Miami, and with Rex Burkhead on injured reserve, the Patriots turned to J.J. Taylor again as a depth running back. The rookie free agent therefore saw his firs in-game action since Week 3, even though he had a rather quiet day. He gained two yards on his lone carry and was targeted once in the passing game, drawing an illegal contact penalty to move the chains.