Patriots’ Martellus Bennett-Rob Gronkowski Duo Should Create Havoc


March 22, 2016

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t show much interest in talking about Martellus Bennett on Tuesday, but Rex Ryan did.

The Buffalo Bills head coach talked up Bennett and fellow Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski at the NFL Annual Meeting, saying he has “no idea” how Buffalo will defend both of them.

“I just think it’s unusual to have two guys that are like 6-(foot)-7 and can run, catch, block,” Ryan told reporters. “So, yeah, it’s going to be a major challenge. There’s no doubt about that. It’s scary when you look at them. Those are two huge guys. How we’re going to defend them, I don’t know.”

Bennett, who’s 6-foot-6, 273 pounds and was acquired last week in a trade with the Chicago Bears, has gained 1,066 yards after catch since 2013. That’s second to only Gronkowski, who has 1,208 yards at 6-foot-6, 265 pounds.

Bennett, who’s lined up inline on the left, has not only impressive elusiveness for his 273-pound frame, but also power. Bennett led tight ends in 2014 and 2013 in broken tackles with 25 and 23, respectively. His 25 broken tackles in 2014 are the most by a tight end since Pro Football Focus started tracking the stat in 2007.

Bennett and Gronkowski have the ability to split out wide too, which helps the Patriots, who currently don’t have a prototypical “X” receiver. Patriots wideouts Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan spend the majority of their snaps either playing in the slot or in the “Z” role, which could allow Gronkowski or Bennett to take on advantageous matchups at receiver. Bennett and Gronkowksi have the combination of speed and power to beat press coverage by defensive backs and linebackers.

NFL teams have a hard enough time finding a defender (or two) to try to take out Gronkowski. Assuming teams will use their best matchup on Gronkowski, Bennett could find himself open frequently in the Patriots’ offense.

Ryan wasn’t the only AFC East head coach dreading trying to stop Bennett and Gronkowski.

?Am I looking forward to it? Not at this time, no,? New York Jets coach Todd Bowles said Tuesday. ?They?re tall, they?re fast. They create problems. It?s going to be an interesting challenge for everyone every single week.?

Bennett and Gronkowski are two of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, as well, which will give the Patriots the threat of running or passing the ball out of two-tight end sets. The Patriots’ rushing attack struggled last season after Dion Lewis went down with a torn ACL, and part of the reason was because their offense became too predictable. When tight end Michael Williams was on the field with a big back, the Patriots likely were going to run. When they used three receivers and a sub back, they likely were going to throw.

Having Bennett means the Patriots won’t be showing their hand quite as often on defense. Getting Lewis back also should help in that regard.

There’s a reason why Ryan is having a tough time imagining how his team will defend Bennett. Tight end tandems like Gronkowski and Bennett don’t come around very often, and big, athletic tight ends are already difficult to defend.

Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Jul 30, 2015; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) during practice at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
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