In the time leading up to the beginning of training camp, we will be bringing you previews for each New England Patriots positional group. Up next is the tight ends.
Tight Ends: (4)
The success of the tight end position, and the Patriots offense as a whole, hinges on the health of one Rob Gronkowski. If the big tight end is completely healthy throughout the year, and more importantly in the postseason, Tom Brady‘s offensive unit will be just fine. If not, they won’t necessarily struggle, but they won’t be nearly as productive without Gronk on the field.
I think Michael Hoomanawanui is entrenched as the backup to Gronkowski, although I hope the two undrafted kids can prove that they have the talent to overtake Hooman this season. I am not trying to be disrespectful to Hoomanawanui, because I really like him. He is a solid blocker, and can do things in the passing game on occasion. But he lacks the athletic skills to make consistent plays through the air. This offense doesn’t have the weapons of past seasons, so they need everybody on the field to try and get open for Brady.
Justin Jones and Asa Watson both have the potential to make solid contributions to this team. Jones is an athletic freak, standing at 6’8, and based on the reports coming out of minicamp, he showed that he can use his athleticism for good, and make an impact in the passing game. I have high hopes for this kid, and I will be looking for him to compete hard in training camp, and possibly carve out a decent role on this team.
As for Watson, he isn’t nearly as “freakish” as Jones is, but he comes from a football family, and knows the game very well. I heard good things about him from minicamp and OTA’s this offseason, and he will definitely give Jones a run for his money in training camp later this summer.
Unlike past years, I don’t think this group of tight ends will be that great this year for New England. Yes, if Gronkowski is healthy, he will dominate the NFL as usual, but don’t expect the rest of the position to put up big numbers for Brady and company.
During training camp we will monitor the progress of Jones and Watson, and how they stack up with Hoomanawanui, but the biggest thing to watch among this group will be Gronk’s health. Regardless of what anyone tells you, he is the guy that will carry this unit come September. I am excited to see how looks in training camp, and I am hopeful that he will be able to stay healthy all season long.