By: Joe Gill/Boston Sports Then and Now
August 28, 2010

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Its only the preseason, but Gronk and Hernan have been quite impressive for the Patriots.

You don't know who Gronk and Hernan are? If don't know already, you will.

Rookie tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez may be New England's next offensive dynamic duo since Moss and Welker.

When the Patriots selected Gronkowski in the 2nd round and Hernandez in the 4th round in this year's draft, fans may have been scratching their heads. Okay maybe one tight end but two?

New England hasn't utilized the tight end position in their offense since the retirement of Ben Coates for the most part. Since 2000, Ben Watson(48 catches in '06) and Daniel Graham(38 catches in '03) have been the Patriots biggest "threats" at the tight end position.

After the release of Watson and the failed experiment, Chris Baker the Patriots had a gaping hole at the end of the line. Besides the addition of Gronk and Hernan, New England added veteran depth by signing Alge Crumpler. Crump was brought in to be more of a blocker that will assist in the running game. He will not be relied upon offensively, he'll leave that to the young guns.

Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski (PHOTO CREDIT: Icon/SMI)
Gronk is a perfect mix of power and agility. At 6'6" 264 lbs, he has the size and surprisingly the quickness to break free across the middle and in the red zone( 3 touchdowns in three preason games). Ironicallly, he wears the same number, #87 as the last Patriots player to dominate his position, Ben Coates. Both players are physical beasts that overmatch their defensive foes.

Gronk is not Coates, not yet.

One play against the Rams in the preseason, made fans look twice to see which #87 was on the field. Gronkowski dragged a defender five yards and then lunged for the goal line for a score. Just like against Coates, the linebackers and secondary will have a difficult time getting Gronk down with the first tackle.

What Gronk has in pure physical freakishness, Aaron Hernandez has in shiftiness and "Dallas Clark" headiness. He is able to slice up the middle of the field which will have defenses thinking twice about focusing solely on Wes Welker.

Could Hernandez be the Pats' Dallas Clark? The Connecticut native played at the University of Florida and benefited from having Tim Tebow has his quarterback. As a junior, Hernandez was awarded the John Mackey award for the nation's best tight end. His stat line that year was quite impressive with 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns.

There is no doubt that Hernan can perform in a high octane offense like the one in New England.

Hernandez has also made his mark in the preseason catching 7 balls for 72 yards and a score. His touchdown catch off his back shoulder versus Atlanta, made people take notice. It seems like Tom Brady and him are already on the same page.

Granted it's still preseason, but the Patriots may have struck gold with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They have the power in Gronkowski and the agility in Hernandez.

Could they be the next Ben Coates and Dallas Clark?

You know that Tom Brady is licking his chops to find out.

Joe Gill is a guest columnist for, and a featured contributor to Boston Sports Then and Now where you can read his regular column: "Cup Of Joe" every Tuesday and Thursday.  If you have a story idea or just want to talk sports, you can also e-mail Joe directly at [email protected]