Patriots

Dalton Keene responds to Skip Bayless' criticism of Patriots' rookie tight ends

Dalton Keene responds to Skip Bayless' criticism of Patriots' rookie tight ends

The bulletin board material for the New England Patriots keeps coming in, and the latest comes from Skip Bayless.

The co-host of FOX Sports 1 show "Undisputed" was recently reacting to the Patriots reportedly agreeing to sign quarterback Cam Newton when he took a shot at New England's rookie tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. Keene went to Virginia Tech and Asiasi attended UCLA. Both were selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

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"They took (two tight ends) in the third round and you can't name them because nobody knew them in college football," Bayless said. "Are they diamonds in the rough? ... So one of those guys is going to just rise and shine and become the next Rob Gronkowski or even the next Greg Olsen? Ah, stop it. No, not going to happen."

There are many issues with Bayless' comments, but one that immediately comes to mind is the fact neither Keene nor Asiasi need to become the next Gronkowski or Olsen to make a positive impact on the Patriots offense. 

Keene had a simple, measured response on Twitter when alerted to Bayless' criticism. 

Sure, the Patriots didn't get much offensive production from their tight ends last season. There's no denying that, but to knock Keene and Asiasi before they have ever played a game is pretty foolish. Both showed time and time again in college that they could be a factor in the passing game as a receiver and in the run game as a blocker -- the kind of versatility that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick values a lot.

Bayless joins a long list of experts, former players and talk/debate show hosts who've been critical of the Patriots over the offseason -- one that has seen several important players including quarterback Tom Brady depart New England. In fact, before Newton joined the Patriots, oddsmakers had the Buffalo Bills winning the AFC East.

You might not find a more motivated team in pro football than the Patriots this season. No team thrives off of bulletin board material more than New England, and Belichick has so much content to work with entering Week 1 of the regular season.

Todd McShay's new 2020 NFL Mock Draft has Patriots taking Alabama LB

Todd McShay's new 2020 NFL Mock Draft has Patriots taking Alabama LB

Do we know what the state of college and NFL football will be in the spring of 2021? No. Has that stopped the experts from prognosticating? Also no.

Major conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 already have pushed their 2020 football seasons to next spring, and it's still unclear whether college football will even happen. It's also unclear if the 2020 NFL season will happen, as a host of players already have opted out due to concerns about COVID-19.

Despite all that, the 2021 NFL mock drafts are already starting to trickle in. And if you're looking for signs of normalcy, here's one: ESPN's Todd McShay has the New England Patriots taking an Alabama defender.

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Here's McShay's explanation for the Patriots taking Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dylan Moses at No. 26 overall:

If there were a QB who made sense at this stage in the draft, the Patriots would probably look there. At this point, there isn't one, as my Nos. 4 and 5 quarterbacks -- Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Iowa State's Brock Purdy -- are well down the board. But there is a linebacker (two, actually, with LSU's Jabril Cox also available) here who would go a long way toward providing the middle of the defense a QB of its own.

Moses missed last season with a knee injury, but when he's healthy, he is a complete player and game-changer. He brings athleticism, speed, physicality and leadership qualities. Dont'a Hightower, who already opted out of 2020, will be a free agent after the 2021 season, and the 'backer corps already lost Jamie Collins Sr. and Elandon Roberts to the open market.  

Moses won a national championship with Alabama as a freshman in 2017 and was a second-team All-American in 2018 but missed the entire 2019 season due to a knee injury.

He announced his intention to return to Tuscaloosa in 2020 but will be draft-eligible in 2021, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a long history of drafting good friend Nick Saban's players, from Hightower (2012) to cornerback Cyrus Jones (2016) to running back Damien Harris (2019) to outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings earlier this year.

New England certainly has a need at the position, too: Collins, Roberts and Kyle Van Noy left in free agency this offseason, while Hightower will hit free agency in 2021.

NFL Rumors: Sony Michel may not be ready for Patriots' season opener

NFL Rumors: Sony Michel may not be ready for Patriots' season opener

The New England Patriots are incredibly deep at running back. So, why are they reportedly bringing in Lamar Miller?

Part of that answer may have to do with Sony Michel, who had foot surgery in May and began training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, it's "no sure thing" Michel will be healthy for the Patriots' 2020 season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 13.

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"There’s such an uncertain nature in the recovery from any foot surgery that it can be a challenge to predict a defined timeline," Howe wrote. "But right now, Michel is not on the doorstep."

That's obviously concerning news for the third-year running back, who also missed three games as a rookie due to a knee injury. Michel played in all 16 games last season, though, and led New England with 912 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 247 carries.

The Patriots have until Labor Day weekend to activate Michel from the PUP list; if they don't, he'll miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

It appears Miller is their Michel insurance policy as an early-down, workhorse running back to complement James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris after Brandon Bolden opted out of the 2020 season.

Considering Michel's current status, they may have to use that "insurance policy" right off the bat.