Game-changing tight ends propel Patriots

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Game-changing tight ends propel Patriots

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 261 total yards and four touchdowns in Saturday night's 45-10 playoff win over the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski was catching passes. Hernandez was doing the same, plus, rushing the football like a running back.

Needless to say, the Patriots are getting the most out of their pair of young, versatile, and athletic tight ends.

Their production is so astounding, it has Patriots veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters thinking that they've changed the offensive game in the NFL.

If you decide to take away one, that opens things up for the other," said Waters after Saturday's win. "You add the fact that we have receiving threats and some good guys at the running back position. It limits the things you can do defensively as far as trying to take one person out of the game. Thats something that we are able to take advantage of.

Ill tell you what, these two Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are changing the game," added Waters. "I think that youre going to see tight ends get drafted that would have been fourth or fifth round picks will probably be drafted higher because of what these guys are able to do. Youre going to see other teams try to match guys with their receiving tight ends by trying to match them with a guy that can do some of the things that our tight ends can do. So I think these two are changing the game.

Bill Belichick was also asked if he's ever seen a pair of tight ends this good, and had to go back in time.

"Honestly there wasnt a lot of two-tight ends in the mid-70s, there really wasnt," said Belichick after Saturday's win. "There was one tight end in the game and occasionally teams used two tight ends in short-yardage, but thats kind of where the two tight ends and one back. And then Don Coryell and San Diego and so forth, it became a little more prevalent. But when we had Charlie Sanders and David Hill at Detroit, those two guys were pretty good.

"Rob and Aaron have both done a good job for us," said Belichick. "They complement each other well, they compete well with each other, they push each other and theyve been very productive for us. They both do a great job. Were fortunate to have them."

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."