Over the past few seasons, the tight end position in the NFL has been ever evolving.
With offenses in the NFL continuing to move the ball more frequently through the air, the chance to find mismatches in the passing game is something every offensive coordinator is searching for each week.
Tight ends around the league have seen a direct correlation to that and the New England Patriots have been very active in targeting their own in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The tight end duo set NFL records last year combining for 169 catches and 2,237 receiving yards between them.
Colts tight end Weslye Saunders is the same age (23) as Gronkowski and Hernandez and has been a close observer of their talents.
“Obviously I’ve been following those guys since high school, since we came out the same years. They are two great players and our defense is going to have to worry about them,” Saunders said.
Gronkowski has been a constant threat in the red zone for the Patriots, with 36 touchdown catches since the beginning of the 2010 season.
“Tom (Brady) just puts it up to (Gronkowski) and allows him to use his frame and ability to go get the ball,” outside linebacker Justin Hickman said. “He causes mismatch problems with his size, speed. He does a good job using his body to get open in his breaks.”
Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wouldn’t divulge any game planning Indianapolis is planning for Gronkowski this weekend and knows the difficultly of limiting the touches for someone with that frame and quickness.
“I think he’s the biggest and fastest (tight end) that’s come along in a while,” Arians said of Gronkowski. “I don’t think it’s a surprise because coming out of college, if his back held up you knew he was going to be an outstanding player. He was an outstanding blocker and he could run and catch.”
Hernandez has battled an ankle injury over the last couple of weeks and hasn’t played since the Patriots 29-26 win over the Jets on Oct. 21.
While his status for this weekend remains in questions, Arians has seen the Patriots remain among the league’s most potent offenses thanks to a pair of tight ends leading the production.
“I think they’ve streamlined and changed what they’ve done over the last two or three years because of Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski,” Arians said of the Patriots.
“I remember playing them when they were nothing but three wideouts out on the field and a tight end, and he was just out there. They’ve evolved because they do a fanatics job of adapting to their personnel. They obviously have wanted to have that style so they’ve stockpiled tight ends and that’s what they do.”
Tags: bruce arians, Justin Hickman, Weslye Saunders
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