Is it possible that the tight end situation just got a little worse for Bill Belichick's team? It is.
After going into the weekend with two tight ends potentially available to them -- though both were questionable -- rookie Dalton Keene was ruled out on Monday with a knee injury. Ryan Izzo, dealing with a hamstring, is the lone tight end who has the potential to be available to play against the Jets in his home state of New Jersey.
While Keene has produced just one catch for eight yards, he entered the league -- drafted with a pick that had been traded by the Jets to the Patriots in exchange for more draft capital -- as an intriguing option at the position. He played in the backfield at Virginia Tech and looked like an athletic, versatile piece for Josh McDaniels to deploy in his offense.
He'll have to wait at least until the weekend to see his second game of the season.
That's too bad for the Patriots. They target their tight ends less often than any other team in the league. Their combination of Izzo, Keene and Devin Asiasi has produced 10 catches on 16 targets for 122 yards. Asiasi, taken ahead of Keene in the third round of this year's draft, is still waiting for his first pro target and is currently on injured reserve.
If Izzo can play, he'll likely play a great deal. He's played 347 snaps this season, sixth-most of any player on the Patriots offense this year, despite carrying a receiving grade from Pro Football Focus that ranks him 54th out of 59 players with at least 10 targets. He ranks 30th among 47 tight ends with 125 snaps in run-blocking grade.
The Patriots have played 32 snaps offensively with no tight end this season -- either four-receiver sets or two-back sets -- and the results have been mixed.
In "Pony" sets with two pass-catching backs, three receivers and no tight ends, the Patriots have run for 4.9 yards per attempt on eight attempts. Passing out of those sets, the Patriots have a 65.3 passer rating and a meager yards-per-attempt figure of 4.3.
In "10 personnel," with four wideouts and one back, the Patriots have run twice for nine yards and have gone 7-for-9 through the air. Their rating is 105.6 and their yards-per-attempt number is 9.3. The question would be, if the Patriots turn to those formations, who is playing receiver? Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd and Gunner Olszewski are currently on the active roster. Practice-squadders Kristian Wilkerson, Mason Kinsey and Donte Moncrief could be called up, and Isaiah Zuber could be signed to the active roster.
One other option for the Patriots as they deal with a shortage at tight end? Rookie practice-squad edge defender Rashod Berry. He played tight end at Ohio State and despite playing on the defensive side of the ball throughout training camp, Bill Belichick acknowledged he could be an option at the position.
"Yeah, definitely," Belichick said when asked if he's thought to flip Berry to the offensive side of the ball. "He played that position for two years at Ohio State. Rashod’s a very willing player, willing to do whatever he’s asked to do. So, yeah, I mean, at this point, when you have to try to create depth on your roster, those are the kind of options that you’d want to look at."
The Patriots are no strangers to having players flip over and man positions on the other side of the ball. Their hands could be forced on Monday night.