One position the New England Patriots can not afford any more injuries is tight end. With Matt LaCosse already set to miss about three weeks with a knee injury and both fullbacks on injured reserve, New England is especially thin at this position.
Well, on Friday, the Patriots received more bad news regarding their tight end unit. Ryan Izzo, the second-year tight end who has started developing into a prime pass-catcher and run-blocker, was absent from practice on Friday after reportedly suffering a concussion during a full-pad session on Thursday.
Izzo was evaluated following the Thursday session and was not spotted on the practice field Friday. Given the reported concussion was suffered so late in the week, the Patriots may be forced to go without Izzo on Monday night.
Though little is known about the severity of the injury, it does not appear to be long-term. Still, it could cost New England one of its most improved offensive players on Monday night against the New York Jets.
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Who’s Healthy at Tight End
It’s getting easier to name the remaining healthy bodies at tight end for the Patriots. Since LaCosse and now Izzo are both currently out of action, the Patriots will rely on just Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson at tight end.
Watson could show some rawness as he gets set to make his 2019 season debut. Suspended to start the season and later released, Watson did appear to be a big piece of the Patriots plan at tight end when resigned for the injured Jakob Johnson.
Having played 16 seasons in the NFL, Watson has experience with the Patriots system from his prior stint between 2004-09. That chemistry between him and Brady could result in larger utilization of the tight end in the receiving game.
As for Tomlinson, it seems his best role might be out of the backfield and as a blocker at the line of scrimmage. He has prior experience as a fullback, serving in that role while playing for the Jets in 2017-18. At 6-foot-6, he is the largest tight end and receiving target on the Patriots roster, something that might prove valuable down in the red zone for corner fades.
Impact of Izzo’s Injury
The Patriots could now be without a top target over the middle in Izzo. Though he hasn’t been heavily involved as a receiver, he runs routes well though his run-blocking could use some improvement.
Without Izzo, it could force the Patriots to use Watson more in their blocking schemes instead of in passing patterns where he could provide more value. It’s a major loss for New England indeed, affecting much of the offense.
Should Izzo somehow recover in time to play on Monday night, it would give New England more flexibility at tight end and better stability at the line of scrimmage on running plays. But at this point, that doesn’t seem likely.