By: Jake Mackey
If you were to ask me as a Patriots fan what position I thought was the most impressive on the team’s roster as of right now, I would have to say tight end. Not because they are necessarily deep, but because there starters are two of the best in the game at the position. Here is a quick preview of the tight end’s on the roster going into the 2016 season.
Rob Gronkowski: 154 receptions, 2300 yards, and 23 touchdowns are the stats for Robert Gronkowski over the past two seasons. The Patriots offense has three essential players; Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski. They each have their own strengths. What makes Gronk so pivotal to the success of the Patriots is the fact that defensive coordinators lose sleep all week wondering how to stop him. 87 requires two defenders on every snap, and when the offense gets inside the red zone it’s three and sometimes four defenders.
In the postseason, Gronk is a force to be reckoned with in the postseason as well. He has a touchdown in each of his last five postseason games. He is a guaranteed seven points in almost every game. At 27 years old, I would not expect much to change from Gronk in 2016, barring injury of course.
Martellus Bennett: Just two seasons ago, for the Chicago Bears Martellus Bennett racked up 90 receptions, for 916 yards, and six touchdowns. 2015 was considered a down year for him as he only had 53 receptions, 439 yards, and three touchdowns, as he was unhappy with his contract throughout the year. His discomfort with Chicago lead to the team trading him to the Patriots this past March. The 6-7, 248 pound tight end paired with fellow 6-7 tight end Rob Gronkowski should be a nearly unstoppable force in the red zone. It will not be like the 2010-2012 era with number 87 and 81. It will be just straight power blocking and receiving from both players.
(GIF Credit: SBNation.com)
Clay Harbor: An interesting prospect heading into training camp to say the least. The 6-3, 252 pound tight end formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles has only 163 receptions in his career over six seasons. He was a swiss army knife in Jacksonville playing tight end and lining up as a fullback, in addition to contributing on special teams. Sounds like Michael Hoomanawanui 2.0.
Harbor has certainly got himself involved with the offense thus far in mini camp and OTA’s according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, “In one recent practice, he split off to a side field with quarterback Tom Brady and fellow tight end Martellus Bennett as they worked on routes into the end zone, which reflected how he’s currently closer to the top of the depth chart than the bottom.” Injuries and absences are playing to Harbor’s advantage, and in order to make this roster he must capitalize.
AJ Derby: This was a player I was very intrigued by going into training camp a year ago. The 2015 sixth round pick out of Arkansas was placed on season ending injured reserve six days into training camp. The former Razorback was a quarterback, linebacker, and tight end during his college days. At 6-5, 255 pounds Derby is lean and athletic. Unfortunately we did not get to see that athleticism in action very much last summer. Expect an intense battle for that third tight end spot to ensue this summer between Clay Harbor and AJ Derby.
(GIF Credit: Fansided.com)