Patriots Offseason Analysis: Tight Ends

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs a drill in front of tight end Steven Scheu (44) , tight end Martellus Bennett (83) , tight end Bryce Williams (81) and tight end A.J. Derby (86) during an NFL football practice Monday, June 13, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 11: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots dives to catch a touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bills in the first half during the game on November 11, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO, MA – NOVEMBER 11: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots dives to catch a touchdown pass against the Buffalo eBills in the first half during the game on November 11, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

We are incredibly fortunate to be living in an era of Patriots’ football where we have living legends playing for us such as Tom Brady, and the always entertaining, Rob Gronkowski. In Gronk’s illustrious 6 year career, he has set receiving records for the tight-end position, putting him in the greatest TE of all time conversation.

In just 68 games, Gronk has scored 58 touchdowns, placing him 5th all-time in terms of TDs scored by tight-ends. Tony Gonzalez is number 1 on the list with 111 TDs in 270 games.

If Gronk repeats his first 6 years, he will have scored 116 TDs in 136 games. Making for 5 more TDs than the legendary Tony Gonzalez in almost exactly half the amount of games.

The only downside to Gronkowski is that he has quite the injury history, not surprising due to the fact that safeties and cornerbacks literally have to throw their bodies at his knees to tackle this behemoth.

 

Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending knee injury after this hit by T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending knee injury after this hit by T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Let’s go over his major injuries throughout his football career:

  • Gronk’s major injuries include a back strain in his 2009 college season at Arizona, it was bad enough to the point where he required surgery and missed 13 regular season games.
  • In 2012 he dove for a ball down the sideline and landed hard on his forearm, causing him to break it and require surgery and ultimately forcing him to miss 6 regular season games.
  • In 2013 he took a low-blow to his knee from T.J. Ward, who was on the Cleveland Browns at the time. He tore his ACL forcing him to have season-ending surgery.

His other injuries and maintenance surgeries aren’t even mentioned here. Ultimately the point is that although Gronk seems superhuman, he’s not. He is very prone to injury and therefore it is important that the team’s offense is not incapable of producing in his absence.

This makes the offseason arrival of former Bears tight-end Martellus Bennett a very welcomed one. If you take a trip down memory lane real quick to the time in Patriots’ history when Aaron Hernandez’s skeletons were still well-hidden in the closet, you will remember an offense that thrived off of a 2-TE attack.

Since that time, the team has been attempting to get back to that formula, they just needed to replace the missing part. In the beginning of last season, many thought that Scott Chandler would be the answer, since he always performed so well against the Patriots. Patriots Nation soon realized that he wasn’t what we all thought he would be.

Now it is Martellus Bennett’s turn to try and fill the void. Bennett is nearly identical to Gronkowski in stature, weighing in at 273 pounds (8 more than Gronk), and standing at 6-foot-6 (exactly the same as Gronk).

Last season Bennett hauled in 53 receptions for 439 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 40 yards a game. Gronkowksi had 72 receptions for 1176 yards and 11 TDs, averaging 78 yards a game. Although there is quite a difference between the two stat-lines, it is important to keep in mind who was throwing to them. Gronk had Tom Brady throwing to him in an offense run by Bill Belichick, whereas Bennett had Jay Cutler throwing to him in an offense run by Marc Trestman, who just got replaced by John Fox.

Recently, when asked about being a part of arguably the most dominant TE duo in the league, Bennett said:

“I don’t really mind being Robin, you know? So right now its just working every day and just trying to get better. He’s an excellent player, and I’m gonna be able to get a lot of single coverages with him.”

In fact, Martellus has had nothing but positive things to say since he was traded for earlier in this offseason. He brings an incredibly friendly and happy vibe to the locker room and even to the media table. When team photographer David Silverman was taking Bennett’s headshot for the season, he asked him to do one smiling picture and one non-smiling picture, to which Martellus replied “I only smile.”

As training camp approaches, the team will allow Martellus to spread his wings a little bit and show what he is capable of doing offensively. Bennett said this about finding his role with the team:

“I don’t really know what my role is in the offense just yet because there’s a lot of things that they’re finding out that I can do that people haven’t let me do in the past which has been very, very exciting…It’s like finally getting the leashes off and letting me go.”

When the regular season comes, Patriots Nation will be very excited to see Batman (Gronk) and Robin (Martellus) go.

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