It has been joked that if Bill Belichick could start a team of tight ends and tight ends only, he’d do it.
Belichick sees the tight end spot as the most versatile of all positions on offense, and it’s easy to see why. The tight end can be used outside to spread the field or inside between the hash marks, whether as a receiver or a blocker. You’ll even see tight ends used as fullbacks.
It helps that the Patriots have one of the best tight ends of all-time in Rob Gronkowski. But this year, they have another proven TE in Martellus Bennett.
Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett
There’s a reason we’re starting the Patriots position preview with tight ends: you don’t need an entire training camp to see how this position plays out. It’s Gronk’s world, and we’re just living in it. But now, Martellus Bennett gets in on the fun too. On most teams, Bennett is the No. 1 tight end option. Now he makes up a two-headed monster that should have defensive backs headed for the hills. Bennett had a bit of a down year last season, finishing with 53 receptions for 439 yards and four touchdowns with the Bears. But in 2014 he caught 90 balls for 916 yards and six touchdowns. There’s reason to believe he’ll finish with numbers closer to his 2014 output.
Clay Harbor, AJ Derby, Bryce Williams, Bear Pascoe, Steven Scheu
With the Patriots acquiring Bennett over the offseason, the Clay Harbor signing went under the radar. Harbor, who is currently on the PUP list, looks to be a real contributor due to his versatility at the position. He’s also spent time at fullback over his seven-year career. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Harbor gives the offense another big body. What they lack in size at wide receiver they more than make up for at tight end, a position they will continue to utilize to the max.
What to look for
It’s not ideal that in Bennett’s first season with the Patriots he’s got to not only get on the same page with Tom Brady, but also play his first four games with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB. But that’s the reality, and while you wouldn’t say anybody is worried Bennett won’t catch on, it’s certainly something people are going to be looking for in camp and in preseason. So far, so good. “He’s great,” Gronkowski told reporters of Bennett. “He’s a great guy to work with. He’s football smart. He came in, he’s picked up the playbook very well, which is super, super beneficial here in our offense, so that’s super good to see. It’s fun working with him. It’s another guy that is just super talented and wants me to push harder, too. I can take things from his game, seeing his athleticism, seeing how he gets off the ball. I can bring it into my game, use some of his routes, he can come use some of mine, so it’s great to work off of each other and great to be able to work with.”