By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
Talk about position turnover. The Patriots motto at tight end this offseason was “Out with 2009, In with 2010.” Gone are last year’s tight ends Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker, and in are veteran Alge Crumpler and rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
It’s a little difficult, in fact, to analyze this position as we have yet to see any of them suit up for the Patriots.
Entering his 10th NFL season, Crumpler has undergone a transformation in his career from pass-catching tight end to blocking tight end. This has coincided with his already huge frame getting even bigger. This offseason, Crumpler has reported rededicated himself to conditioning and is set to report in the (wait for it…) “best shape of his career.” We’ll see about that. Crumpler was the best of a very limited free agent crop at the position, and figures to be a short term solution while the Patriots train up the rookies. Crumpler is said to be a good mentor and locker room presence, so hopefully that smooths the transition.
He likely had some fans cringing with his antics after the Patriots drafted him, and his health history is a notable cause for concern. Still, he was too big of a talent to let get by in the second round, and his potential both as a receiver and blocker is huge. He’s got the size (6-6, 265) to be force. Keeping him healthy is a concern, as it’s never comforting when a guy his size has to miss an entire season with back surgery.
Hey, did you know Hernandez failed MULTIPLE drug tests in college, but Florida only reported one? We heard that about a million times from a certain Globe reporter this spring. Hopefully Hernandez has put his recreational drug use behind him and begun focusing on using his considerable talents in the Patriots offense. An accomplished pass-catcher, Hernandez could step in and play a big role in this offense immediately. During the spring camps, the Patriots had him all over the field, using him in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing we can say about Myers, who was signed to the practice squad last November, is that he’s been assigned Troy Brown’s #80. That doesn’t to bode well.
There was plenty of outcry early in the free agent period when the Patriots had only practice squad tight ends under contract. Since the additions of the top three above, things have quieted down, and now there is even a bit of anticipation over the potential of the position. There is speculation that with the occasionally stone-handed Ben Watson out of town that Tom Brady might actually look to the tights ends more often this season. Stop me if this sounds familiar, but the Patriots are relying on young players here, and need them to come though. If they can, Gronkowski and Hernandez could be a formidable duo for seasons to come.