(This is another entry into Musket Fire’s ‘positional breakdown’ feature)
Tight Ends Under Contract For 2013: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells
When Gronkowski is healthy, he is one of the most dominating players in the NFL. ‘Gronk’ is nearly impossible to cover one one one because he is huge, he is very fast for his size, and has some of the best hands in the NFL. If you put a linebacker on him, he runs right by him and if you put a safety or a corner on him, he is just to big for them to handle. Gronkowski is also a beast in the running game, he is a great blocker, and in essence can be an extra offensive lineman for the Pats when they want to run the football. Gronkowski garners a ton of attention whenever he is in the game so he really helps other weapons get open throughout the season. Gronkowski did break his arm twice in the last part of the season, so he will have to show he can stay healthy for an entire year, but I think he will come back totally healthy in 2013 and have another monster year.
Hernandez is the second part of the ‘Boston TE Party’ and in my opinion is a better receiver than Gronkowski. He is one of the quickest players in the NFL, and after the catch he is very tough to tackle. He is a good route-runner and like Gronkowski, he garners a lot of attention when on the field. Hernandez is not a very good run blocker, but because of his talent in the passing game, the Pats keep him on the field for pretty much the entire game. Hernandez does at times seem to drop the ball, and I think that is something he will have to work on. An ankle injury slowed Hernandez in 2012, and he did not get back to full health for a little while, but I fully expect him to have a huge year in 2013, assuming he keeps healthy. With Hernandez’s talent, and the way he continues to learn and get better, I feel he will be one of, if not the best tight end in the NFL.
Ballard did not play a single snap in 2012 because of a knee injury. I think that in 2013 he can bring another solid player to the Patriots offense. Before his knee injury Ballard was a solid run blocker that could make some plays in the passing game as well. If he recovers from his knee injury, I would hope he gets on the field for the Pats, and if he does, I think he would help make that offense he more productive.
Fells started the year off really well, as he had to fill in for Hernandez when he was injured. However the coaching staff saw something they did not like with him, and he was really replaced by Michael Hoomanawanui. Fells could possibly be a cap casualty because he is getting paid 1.25 million dollars in 2013. For a guy that may not even be the 3rd tight end on the roster, I do not think that he is worth it. If he is not willing to take a pay cut, then I think he will be released before the 2013 season begins.
The only thing I am worried about at this position for the Pats, is if they can be healthy for an entire season. When healthy, they are the most talented position the Pats have. I think in the passing game, you have to double Hernandez and Gronkowski because if you do not, you will be burned. By doubling them, you get one one one coverage with Welker and Lloyd. In the running game, Gronkowski makes a much bigger impact than Hernandez, and it is obvious that when Gronk is in the game the running backs do much better. If these two can stay healthy for an entire year, then records will fall, and I believe that 2013 could possibly be that year.