Saturday, January 29, 2011
Future Focus: Tight ends
By Mike Reiss
Sixth in a series of positional "look-aheads" for the Patriots:
Tight end: Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Carson Butler
Stat check: Gronkowski played the most snaps (756), followed by Crumpler (540) and Hernandez (486). Gronkowski finished with 42 receptions and 10 touchdown catches.
Rob Gronkowski had 10 TD catches in his rookie season.
First instinct: The Patriots hit it big with Gronkowski, who slipped to the second round of the 2010 draft because of a back injury that cost him his final collegiate season at Arizona. Gronkowski wasn’t slowed by the back in New England, playing in every game and not missing a practice.
Storyline not to be overlooked: Crumpler’s impact. A 10-year veteran, his locker was between Gronkowski and Hernandez and he took both rookies under his wing throughout the year. His leadership earned him a role as a team captain just a few weeks into the season.
Future: Crumpler enters the final season of the two-year contract he signed in 2010. He should be back in 2011, while Gronkowski and Hernandez are inked through 2013.
Final thought: This is one of the most solidified positions on the roster. The Patriots would be extending themselves to keep a fourth tight end on the roster, so the club is likely to return the same group of players in 2011. If the Patriots draft a tight end, it would likely be in the late rounds with the idea of grooming him on the practice squad.
Your thoughts: What do you think the Patriots should do at tight end this offseason? Stand pat? Start grooming Crumpler’s replacement?