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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Will teams copy the Patriots' two tight end set next year?

The NFL is a copy-cat league so watching the New England Patriots tear up the league with their tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez has many teams around the league salivating. The only problem is there isn’t another team with enough talent at the tight end position to replicate what the Patriots did this season.

Or is there? There are a few teams with multiple pass catching tight ends but none that can match the combined production of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Both were in the top five in receptions for tight ends and combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns. So what team boasted the second most productive tight end duo last season?

Would you have guessed the Detroit Lions’ duo of Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler? Me either, but Pettigrew and Scheffler combined for 109 catches, 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s 60 less catches than the New England duo and less yards than both Gronkowski (1,327 yards) and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham (1,310 yards) had by themselves.  

Having two tight ends catch as many passes as the Patriots did is rare. Both Gronkowski and Hernandez caught over 75 catches last season. A total of seventeen tight ends caught over 50 passes last season which is a big jump from ten years ago when only six tight ends caught over 50 passes.

Seventeen tight ends catching over 50 passes is impressive but there are more tight ends around the league that are capable of surpassing that total. Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts really missed Peyton Manning last season. Clark is one of Manning’s favorite targets and had 100 receptions a couple of years ago. He only had 34 catches last year.

Jacob Tamme caught 67 catches for the Colts last year when Clark went out with a season ending injury. Chris Cooley had 77 receptions in 2010 playing for the Redskins. He only played in five games last season due to injury which prevented him from surpassing the 50-catch mark.

Zach Miller caught 60 passes for the Oakland Raiders two seasons ago but only had 25 receptions this season after joining the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. Mercedes Lewis caught 58 passes and scored 10 touchdowns with David Garrard at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010. He wasn’t as productive last year with the team trying to bring rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert along.

There are more talented pass-catching tight ends out there but for various reasons teams haven’t made a commitment to throw to them. That may change now though as teams looking for more production out of their passing games start to mimic the Patriots’ two tight end passing attack. That is until the next offensive trend comes along. 

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and also writes for both The Penalty Flag and Outside The Redzone. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist and add him on Facebook Roosevelt Hall Thesportmentalist.

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