With the injuries adding up at the tight end position, the Patriots were down to only second-year player Devin Asiasi for Tuesday's joint practice with the Eagles. Jonnu Smith missed his second-straight session after sustaining an ankle injury during Sunday's walkthrough, while Hunter Henry continues to work his way back from a shoulder injury sustained early last week.
"We got a couple of guys down but gotta step up and play my role," said Asiasi after Tuesday's session. "Knowing what I gotta do out there and knowing how to execute."
Even Troy Fumagalli was a surprise absence on Tuesday, thrusting Asiasi into the spotlight and he delivered with a touchdown catch from Mac Jones that had the rookie quarterback, as well as tight ends coach Nick Caley fired up.
"It definitely helps when you get your coaches behind you," said Asiasi of Caley's support. "They celebrate you on your wins and they help you out with your losses. Just gives you more confidence in what you're doing. Fired up to see him get fired up and it gives me more confidence."
It was far from the start to his second year that Asiasi would've wanted, landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 list just before training camp and getting set back before even getting started.
Now working his way back up to 100 percent, Asiasi has a golden opportunity to get a ton of reps and build off a rookie season that saw him catch just two passes. It would appear the Patriots plan to heavily feature the tight ends in their offense this season, but that's something that might be entirely on Asiasi until the rest of his position mates can get healthy.
It's a challenge he's ready for after a rookie season that couldn't get much more challenging.
"Just a little more confident in what I'm doing out there," said Asiasi of his progress in Year Two. "We had an offseason, so we had OTAs and minicamp in the spring. Getting those extra reps, getting extra meeting time with the coaches plays a big part in just my confidence overall as well."
Having two new veteran tight ends in the room has been a major boost, despite the recent spate of injuries.
"Just being in the same room with them and watching film with them, watching them and seeing how they carry themselves on and off the field, I take in everything I'm watching everything they're doing," said Asiasi. "Just being around them is a great experience."
Rookies Barmore and Stevenson getting acclimated
Stevenson popped with a 91-yard touchdown scamper in the closing minutes of last Thursday's win over the Washington Football Team and will be looking to combine that experience with that of joint practices and translate it into a second strong performance.
"It was very special," said Stevenson of his touchdown. "I'm gonna remember that for the rest of my life, it was a very special moment for me. I just want to build off that.
"It just made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident just because my teammates believed in me and they were all proud of me. It was just a great feeling."
As for Barmore, the North Philadelphia native was excited to be back in his home city, while being around the Eagles brought back memories of one of his favorite players, Reggie White.
"When my grandpa showed me his highlights I just loved it," said Barmore. "I love that man's style, I love how he played and I love his game. First of all, he's tall and he's big, I like tall and big linemen to watch."
Barmore's presence in the middle of the defense has been hard to miss, as he continues to see valuable reps early and often with some of New England's most experienced defenders.
"Those guys, you've got to be on their page," said Barmore of the vets. "They're fast, they're different. I just want to be on their page. I just want to do what they want me to do."
5 takeaways from Eagles joint practice no. 2
- This was a brisk session with the teams jumping right into red zone 11-on-11's and spending the rest of practice slowly moving from the high red zone to the low red zone with a combination that included 7-on-7 work as well. Our Patriots Unfiltered vantage point was right next to the field where the Patriots did most of their defensive work, although the final period featuring work by Cam Newton and Mac Jones was also right in front of us.
- There still isn't a lot of clarity about how things are stacking up along the defensive line. With Lawrence Guy out there's been a liberal rotation up front and while it would seem that Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise and Christian Barmore are good roster bets, the competition between Akeem Spence, Carl Davis and Henry Anderson continues to be unclear. All of those players are slightly different and the biggest part of the equation might just be how the team wants to piece it all together. Davis' fit was obvious when he arrived here last season and if not for Godchaux, he might be the top nose tackle option.
- With Jonathan Jones out, the depth at cornerback continues to be tested. Jalen Hurts had more success through the air today, though the practice was ideally suited to JoeJuan Williams, whose size and ability to jam at the line stood out. Williams could be a key figure to watch against the Eagles on Thursday night. But after J.C. Jackson, no other cornerback is really proven in the Patriots system and it showed on Tuesday.
- Adrian Colbert could be another name to keep an eye on as the safety depth behind the top trio is also pretty thin. Colbert missed a good chunk of camp but looks ready to jump into game action on Thursday night. He's another defensive back that has a good opportunity. Overall, the safeties were really challenged in these two practices by the Eagles' talented tight end group.
- For all the questions, there isn't much to wonder about at linebacker, where Dont'a Hightower, Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy continue to lead the charge. That physical and experienced trio are making plenty of good things happen, with Judon bringing a different twist than Jamie Collins did during the 2019 season with Hightower and Van Noy. Perhaps the only real thing to ponder is just how much and at what level Josh Uche will be ready to contribute. And though he got a late start to camp, don't sleep on Chase Winovich. It appears his high-energy pass rush will be in demand this year, with the potential for him to take it to the next level in his third season. Uche and Winovich are the wild cards.
Quotes of Note
Jakobi Meyers on Julian Edelman:
"What I admired about Jules was that he played with no fear. It didn't matter what situation you threw him into, he'd do his best to go make that play. Just doing my best to emulate that and not necessarily trying to be exactly like him but he kind of set the standard as far as toughness for me last year. I'm just trying to come out every day and match that intensity."
Adrian Philips on his positional versatility:
"I'm one of the guys, when you ask me what position I play I say defense. I wanna be able to line up everywhere and most importantly, I wanna be able to produce everywhere. That's what I was doing this off-season, being able to line up in those different spots, getting multiple reps and when they call it, even if I don't get a lot of reps in practice, if they call it in a game, I'm ready to go."
Sony Michel on the new season:
"We got a new team this year and we really have to learn to adjust with each other. We're so used to playing our defense now we're going against the different defense that does things differently so we just have to adjust and try to execute as best we can."
Check out photos of the Patriots-Eagles joint practices at the Nova Cara Complex in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.