Hernandez, Gronkowski come up big for Brady


Hernandez, Gronkowski come up big for Brady

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

MIAMI -- Which tight end did you pick for a sophomore slump: Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski?

Either way, you got it wrong.

Or so it seems after New England's Monday night fight with AFC East foe Miami. The Patriots walloped the 'Fins, 38-24, and Miami's inability to contain the two tight ends was a deciding factor. Hernandez had 7 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown; Gronkowski, 6 for 86 and a touchdown.

The match-up mess got especially frustrating in the fourth quarter for veteran Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell. Brady opened his first drive with a 15-yard pass to Gronkowski, who Bell brought down with help from Reshad Jones. Bell, infuriated by yet another first down by yet another Brady-to-tight end connection, punched a balled-up fist into the field and let out a roar.

Hernandez ended up with 42 receiving yards on that drive and New England got three more points. More impressively, the efficiency helped Brady to a record-setting 517 passing yards -- the first of his career and 11th in NFL history.

Housed (and probably lost) inside that tremendous benchmark is another first: The first game both Hernandez and Gronkowski recorded a touchdown catch. Hard to believe, right? One of the two tight ends caught a six-point ball in every regular-season game last year (Gronkowski had 10, Hernandez 6), but they never did it on the same night.

Until now.


ON GETTING BETTER WITH TIME: "I'm a lot more comfortable because now I'm learning a little bit more about defenses and more plays. But I've still got a long ways to go and I just take it day by day."

WHY THE TWO TIGHT END SET WORKS: "Sometimes they worry about Gronkowski and they forget about me. And sometimes they worry about me and forget about him. That's why it's a great combination.

After the game, Hernandez was asked to describe Gronkowski.

"He's a beast," he yelled, nodding over to his teammates stall. "Everybody knows that he's a playmaker. He's a great tight end."

When the media hoard shuffled down to Gronkowski's locker to ask the same question, he returned the compliment. "Hernandez? He's a beast," Gronkowski laughed. The reporters yukked it up in kind. "Great teammate to have. Great tight end, goes out there, gets open. He helps in the running game and everything. It's great to have each other and push each other. It's awesome."

GRONKOWSKI ON GRONKOWSKI (brother Dan, tight end): "That's cool that he's on the team and everything and he had a great game, too. He had a great blocking game overall and he played a lot. It was awesome to be out there with him."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes


Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”