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I am not surprised at the reports so far about the TEs...
"As long as we have Belichick, I always think that we're going to be just fine."...Tom Brady, in reference to his coach.
“It is what it is, but it ain’t what you think.”...Brandon Spikes
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–He’ll likely get overshadowed by the three more well-known guys ahead of him on the tight end depth chart, but Rob Myers is quietly having a very good start to camp. The 2009 practice squader is a smooth route runner and has decent hands. I like what I’ve seen. Another year on the practice squad and maybe an in-season call-up might be in the cards.
–Brian Hoyer had a good series of plays late in a team segment, completing a few short throws in the flat. On one he rolled out to hit Aaron Hernandez, who then turned up the sideline before taking a pretty good pop from his former Florida teammate Cunningham.
–Brady hit Gronkowski for another touchdown in goal line work. The rookie tight end caught the ball just short of the end zone and then ran through Chung for the score.
Rookies in New England are seen and not heard, so I didn't get the opportunity to chat up new Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after Saturday morning's workout, but from early indications he's the pass-catching option the team thought he would be.
After struggling in the red zone in 2009, the Patriots totally revamped their tight end position, drafting University of Arizona's Rob Gronkowski in the second round, Florida's Hernandez in the fourth, and signing veteran Alge Crumpler in free agency. They intend to use them all, and have thrown to tight ends often so far in camp. I asked Crumpler, the former Falcon and Titan, for the scouting report on Hernandez:
"What Aaron has is a good knowledge of football, and that probably started with his coaching in college,'' Crumpler said. "Those (Florida) guys are successful for a reason. He's very inquisitive and asks a lot of questions, because he wants to be a very good player. But he still has a long way to go. As a group, us tight ends are the only position in the building that hasn't had any chance to be a part of this team before, so we're all still trying to prove ourselves.''
– Still in the 7-on-7 period, which was the liveliest part of the workout, Hernandez ran a nice fly route down the right sideline and nearly came down with a deep ball from Brady. Despite cornerback Kyle Arrington providing as tight a coverage as possible without committing a penalty, Hernandez jumped and spun counterclockwise to get his hands on the underthrown ball. But when Hernandez hit the ground on his back, the ball fell to the ground as well. The rookie again came up slowly from that play.
– Overall, it seemed like a tough day for Hernandez. It started with his hose-down and continued when he appeared to get an earful of constructive criticism from coaches and even some veterans. He also might’ve been physically shaken up after making a couple of catches. However, toward the end of the session, Aiken offered an encouraging tap on the shoulder, and at the end of practice, Brady knelt next to Hernandez and gave him what looked like a pep talk.
–Aaron Hernandez worked with the wide receivers during a lot of drills early in practice while the rest of the tight ends were elsewhere. He took reps in a slot group that include both Wes Welker and Buddy Farnham, as Edelman was with the running backs at the time.
–Brady had to have another discussion with Hernandez after a route miscommunication led to a poorly overthrown pass at one point.
–During two-minute action late in practice Brady led his unit to a field goal, kicking things off with consecutive completions to a crossing Welker and Moss running an out. He followed with an out to Hernandez. The next pass to Welker was broken up by Butler. The drill concluded with Belichick calling for a third-and-10 situation from the 30 with the offense needing a field goal with just 23 seconds to play. Brady completed an out pattern to Hernandez to set up a 38-yard field goal.
Brady has spent a lot of time talking to Hernandez and tutoring him, and clearly hasn’t shied away from throwing him the ball in team drills. Not bad for a youngster when in a two-minute drill to be the only guy not named Moss or Welker to catch passes.
There is 42nd overall pick Rob Gronkowski, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound former Arizona star whose complete makeup led some to believe he would’ve been the first tight end picked had he not missed 2009 with a back injury.
And there is 113th selection Aaron Hernandez, the 6-2, 245-pound ex-Florida Gator who won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end after making 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns. Had he not battled character questions, he likely would’ve been selected in the second round.
Plenty of talent. Even more hope.
That’s why veteran Alge Crumpler counseled the two during camp. It also may be why the team has been cautious with media appearances, declining to make them available through nine days of camp.
“I talk to them about controlling and managing expectations,” Crumpler said. “I talk to them about it, coaches talk to them about it. You have to be able to manage the expectations. For one, that’s something they can’t control. What happened here in the past, we can’t control. All we can control is how we attack every single day and prepare every single day to become the pro that we want to be.”
Gronkowski looks like a player who could be a running back’s dream with a sealing block on the edge. As for Hernandez, his acrobatic catches look routine. He features the smooth moves of a receiver and has often been with the first unit.
“They’ve been productive on the field,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said, “but obviously the true test will come once we get into a game setting.”
Crumpler said he is willing to take on any role coach Bill Belichick wants. And with the Patriots’ complex offense, that could mean a lot of responsibilities. But Crumpler said that is his way of showing the organization his commitment to being professional. It’s a mentality that is seen more in an unproven rookie than an accomplished player entering his 10th season.
“I don’t think there’s anything in this offense that I can’t do,’’ Crumpler said. “I just hope to be productive in any way. It’s just a matter of what the coaches want me to do, and if I’m able to do it effectively.’’
“I think Alge has been really good for our football team,’’ Belichick said. “He prepares with great diligence and puts a lot of time in it. He never wants to walk on the field unprepared.’’
But Crumpler’s job description is multifaceted. The Patriots not only want him to make a difference on offense, they also want him to help rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — players who could soon take playing time away from Crumpler — get adjusted to the NFL. Carlos Butler and Rob Myers, two other tight ends with little experience, are also on the roster, and could benefit from some mentoring from Crumpler.
“Everybody in this league is a great athlete, but it takes a lot of work off the field to be a good pro,’’ Crumpler said. “I just want to make sure I know what’s going on so that when they ask a question, I can be prompt in my responses.’’