Of all the positional groups on the New England Patriots roster, this group of tight ends may be the most interesting. On the plus side, they have Rob Gronkowski, one of the most dominating players in the entire league in the fold. On the down side, he is recovering from knee surgery, and there isn’t really anybody else to help carry the load.
The way I see it, the success of not only this position, but the entire Pats offense, rests solely on the shoulders of Gronkowski. Now, if Gronk isn’t healthy, I am not saying this offense will be in the dumps. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, and he does have some decent talent surrounding him. But when I say successful, I mean producing come playoff time, and that is where you really need a matchup nightmare like Gronk.
In the playoffs, opposing defenses really seem to know how to bog down this Pats offense. They get after Brady, clog up the middle, beat up the smaller wideouts, and essentially shut this attack down. However if Gronkowski is there, then Brady always has someone to go to, no matter what. There is not a single player in the NFL that is capable of handling Gronk one on one, which allows him to take over a game by himself. In addition to his production, teams begin to shift their coverage down to Gronk, opening up plenty of opportunities for Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, and Aaron Dobson.
Aside from Gronkowski, this is a pretty weak position for New England. Michael Hoomanawanui is fine backup, and he is decent in the blocking game. But when it comes to producing for Brady, he isn’t the guy you want running routes. Then they have two undrafted rookies, Justin Jones, and Asa Watson.
These two really intrigue me, and if all goes well, this group may turn out just fine (in the future). Jones is a physical freak, standing at 6’8, and weighing in at around 277 pounds. He definitely has some potential, based off of some of his college tape, but he must be developed, which could take some time. As for Watson, he isn’t nearly as freakish as Jones is, but he is the littler brother of former Pats tight end Ben Watson, which could work in New England’s favor.
All in all, I don’t think this year’s crop of tight ends will do very well aside from Gronkowski. I have high hopes for Jones and Watson, but you can’t bank on undrafted rookies being main contributors on a championship team. With that said, a healthy Gronk instantly makes this offense one of the best in football, which, combined with that elite secondary of theirs, could be enough to propel them back to the big game.