The Patriots have a pair of athletic rookie tight ends who are excellent weapons at receiver. Aaron Hernandez rank second on the team with 36 catches and 462 yards. He has 3 touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski has 25 catches for 310 yards and is tied for the team lead with 6 touchdowns. These selections have led to the tight ends in this offense more than doubling their role in the offense from a year ago. For a few years, I have wanted the Jets to add another athletic receiving tight end to pair with Dustin Keller. If Keller is a problem for some teams, dealing with a duplicate would be twice as difficult. This is an example.
Over the past few days, we have discussed potential ways to attack the Patriots defensively. Some have been skeptical of my suggestion to play Darrelle Revis in the slot against Wes Welker, arguing Gang Green should leave Drew Coleman on him and providing him help. The tight ends are why I disagree.
Revis should not be needed on Deion Branch. Branch is not a game wrecker like Randy Moss unless a team doesn't cover him, which seemed to be Detroit's approach on Thanksgiving. Antonio Cromartie has taken away Moss twice this season. He took away Lee Evans. He took away Brandon Lloyd. If he cannot keep Branch from getting open, the Jets have a big problem.
I think Revis needs to be inside on Welker. There are only so many guys on the field. If the Jets are going to double Welker and still maintain an aggressive blitzing game plan, that would mean leaving the tight ends in matchups favorable to New England.
I think one of the tight ends should be the focus of bracket coverage. I think the Jets should use Dwight Lowery and Kyle Wilson inside on the tight ends. Again, the guys up front should be able to take away the run on their own. If they cannot, the Jets have a big problem. They can sacrifice losing safety help in run support with Eric Smith off the field. I would have suggested this even had Jim Leonhard been there. Lowery and Wilson have better cover skills. Lowery has experience at safety. Wilson has played well when moved in against tight ends.
I think a team can scheme to take away one thing from an opposition. Everybody else must execute without help. I think Cromartie can handle Branch. I think Revis can handle Welker. I think the men in the trenches can handle the New England run game. I do not think the linebackers and safeties on the roster can handle the tight ends. The scheme should be designed to help them. This is a spot where the Pats have an edge.