Charting the Patriots' struggles against opposing tight ends

Ryan Hannable
October 03, 2012 at 07:27pm ET

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One major concern for the Patriots defense this year, and really for some time now, has been their inability to cover opposing tight ends.

While Brandon Spikes shines against the run, he struggles in defending the pass.(FILE:USPresswire

Here is a look of how tight ends have faired when facing the Patriots this season:

@ Buffalo: Scott Chandler 4 catches, 63 yards, 2 touchdowns

@ Baltimore: Dennis Pitta 5 catches, 50 yards, 1 touchdown

vs. Arizona: Todd Heap 5 catches, 62 yards*

@ Tennessee: Jared Cook 4 catches, 64 yards*

Total: 18 catches, 239 yards, 3 touchdowns

* led team in receiving

ANALYSIS: It isn't a secret the Patriots have a hard time covering tight ends, especially over the middle of the field. A lot of this has to do with Patriots linebackers struggling in pass coverage. A perfect example is Brandon Spikes as he has been tabbed as one of the best run stopping linebackers in the league, but when it comes to depending the pass it certainly isn't his strong suit and the reason why he isn't a three-down player yet. Jerod Mayo is one of the best tacklers in the game, but is average at best in terms of defending the pass. Dont'a Hightower is very inexperienced when it comes to this and Tracy White hasn't been able to get the job done in the times he's been put in a situation to cover a tight end over the years. This could also play into why the Patriots brought back Bobby Carpenter this week. It also speaks to the safeties not getting the job done when asked to cover a tight end. Patrick Chung, who just a few years ago could cover tight ends with the best of them, has certainly seen his play fall off, while Steve Gregory hasn't showed much in his short time in New England. This situation is something to monitor as the season goes on, especially if opposing teams exploit it more than they already have.