The New England Patriots are finishing their early OTAs and mini-camps with training camp still over a month away. With that, it is far too early to get a handle on what direction the team will take the offense with running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount still getting back to full strength after season-ending injuries and top wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola slowed by off-season surgery.
The Patriots have spent the last few years trying to replicate the offense when Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski drove defensive coordinators crazy with their versatility and match-up problems. They tried Michael Hoomanwanui in 2013, Tim Wright in 2014, and veteran Scott Chandler last season to try to replicate the two-tight end offense that gave opposing defenses so much trouble.
However, with the off-season trade for dynamic receiving tight end Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears the New England Patriots may finally have found their offensive weapon opposite All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Bennett was a Pro Bowl tight end two years ago in Chicago. That season he caught 90 passes. His arrival in New England gives the Patriots one of the best tight end duos in the game. Certainly this is the best duo that quarterback Tom Brady has had to work since the sudden end of the Aaron Hernandez era in New England.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has only had a few reps on the practice field with Bennett so far during organized team activities, but the pair might be able to produce at an astounding level in 2016. Basically, the Patriots added a top tight end, one who like Gronkowski is capable of serving both as a pass catcher a blocker, to team-up with the best tight end in the NFL.
Everyone in New England knows what Gronkowski can do in the Josh McDaniels offense, but what can that offense do now with Bennett’s pass-catching ability added to it? Since 2012 when he became a starter in the NFL, Bennett has played in 59 games and had 263 receptions, 2,740 yards, and 19 touchdowns.
Bennett is not only fast for a tight end, but he’s built like a semi-truck. Last year Jay Cutler and the Bears offense frequently dumped the pass to him in the flat. That is the kind of play which is dependent on Bennett’s ability to break tackles and rumble upfield. In New England, that play has been run time and time again for Rob Gronkowski.
Bennett is six-foot-six and 273 pounds and–like Gronkowski–has deceptive quickness and power. Also like Gronkowski he presents a match-up issue no matter who lines up opposite him on defense. He can win against bigger linebackers, and he can line up like a receiver and win against faster defensive backs, using his massive frame to shield away defenders while the ball is in flight.
Bennett is not a tight end who will replicate Aaron Hernandez’s role in the offense. Bennett is a Gronk-sized threat who can line-up at the end of the line or split wide. What makes Bennett a difficult match-up teamed with Gronkowski is his blocking ability. Bennett is also a multi-dimensional tight end who can also provide strong run-blocking.
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Having two excellent blocking tight ends who double as receiving threats seems unfair to the rest of the NFL. With both tight ends forcing defenses into a more cautious, secondary-heavy defensive look, the Patriots should be able to run the football with authority. Bennett will give the Patriots an incredible amount of flexibility. The offense can line both Gronkowski and Bennett on the line of scrimmage and create favorable passing match-ups against slower linebackers or split them both out wide against defensive backs who cannot handle their size.
Everything that should have happened with Scott Chandler is finally going to happen this year with Martellus Bennett at tight end. The match-up problems created by the two tight ends (especially in the red zone) presented to the defense should return the New England offense to their pre-2013 level if Bennett and Gronkowski stay healthy.