In charting offensive participation from the Patriots’ 22-21 loss to the Dolphins, it initially appeared that the lack of tight end involvement in the pass receiving game was a glaring issue.
Chris Baker and Benjamin Watson were on the field for a combined 89 snaps. They were targeted just once as receivers. Looking solely at those numbers, this headline accompanied the offensive participation breakdown: “TE production remains a concern”.
But after reviewing every Patriots offensive snap from the loss to Miami, that headline is off the mark. Here are some points that stood out to me about the involvement of tight ends in the passing game:
1. Baker released into pass routes only 10 times, while Watson released into pass routes only 15 times. Context is important when considering some of those plays were quick passes to Wes Welker or backs, so the tight ends weren't a real option as receivers but more important as downfield blockers.
2. Both tight ends had important blocks: Baker had a chip on Randy Moss’ 58-yard touchdown and blocked Joey Porter on Wes Welker’s 58-yard catch, while Watson picked up Porter on Sam Aiken’s 81-yard touchdown.
3. Tom Brady’s first read was open most of the time, specifically Welker, so there was no need to force it to the tight ends.
4. The ball was often out quickly, to Welker or the running backs. So it wasn’t as if Brady was going through his progressions and the tight ends weren’t open.
5. The tight ends weren’t part of the pass-first, two-minute offense as the Patriots went with a 3 WR/2 RB package.