FOXBORO, Mass. — If New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski played on the defensive side of the ball, he likely would be a defensive end in the J.J. Watt mold — a tall, freakishly athletic specimen hellbent on making life miserable for offensive tackles.

It was interesting to hear, then, that the player Gronkowski identifies most with on New England’s defense is a 5-foot-11, 215-pound defensive back: safety Patrick Chung.

“To describe Patrick, we always say we’re like the same people,” the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski said Thursday. “He kind of has the same job as myself on offense. He goes around versus the tight ends. I’m going versus him, he’s a safety. We’re always banging all the time. He’s the type of player that wants to get better every single week.”

Second-round draft picks of the Patriots in 2009 and 2010, respectively, Chung and Gronkowski have battled one another on the practice field for six of the last seven seasons, with Chung’s one-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 being the lone exception. Gronkowski said those battles helped make him the explosive offensive force he is today.

“I would definitely want to (give) some of my credit towards him on my success,” Gronkowski said, “because every single time during training camp during the last four years, we would go at it. He was just a great guy to always battle, because we’re in it for each other. I’m trying to make him a better player. Chung is always trying to make me a better player.”

Gronkowski is easily the NFL’s most dangerous and productive tight end, and Chung’s 214 tackles since the start of the 2014 season lead all Patriots defenders. Forty-four of those have come in seven games this season, good for second on the team behind Logan Ryan’s 45.

“We never, ever ‘patty cake’ versus each other,” Gronkowski said. “We go super hard, and we have total respect for each other as players, too, because of the physicality we bring to the table to go versus each other to make each other a better player. I love his game, and I love the way he comes and prepares every single week.”

Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images