Monday, October 4, 2010

Prime Time for Rookie Tight End Aaron Hernandez

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

It’s no secret that New England Patriots quarterback loves throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. This season, however, Brady has found a new toy in rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez.

The Patriots do spread the ball on offense and a lot of guys get their share of touches, but Hernandez is not only gaining more targets per game (two in Week 1, six in Week 2, and seven in Week 3), he is also encroaching on the balls that Moss and Welker are getting their ways. Last week the former Florida Gator even led the team in targets.

Hernandez is earning Brady’s trust. He has led the team in receptions the previous two games (six) and yards (101 against the New York Jets and 65 against the Buffalo Bills). Even though he only had one grab in the opening weekend, he made it count for 45 yards.

He hasn’t caught a touchdown pass yet and isn’t a prime look on goal-line situations, where fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski gets the nod, as will running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Hernandez also isn’t expected to do much blocking, but he does create a lot of matchup problems.

He’s a tad undersized but extremely athletic. He has good speed and can make big plays in the open field. He has good hands and can get to some awkwardly thrown balls. He also has a good vertical leap. And when he gets the ball he does a good job of evading defenders and getting yards after the catch.

He even got into the running game against Buffalo with one carry for 13 yards.

With Moss and Welker demanding a lot of attention, rightfully so, Hernandez can take quite a bit of pressure of them and really open up the field.

Hernandez has been exciting to watch and his growing chemistry with Brady couldn’t come at a better time as the Pats head to Miami to take on the Dolphins.

The Dolphins rank ninth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. However, they have been weak guarding tight ends.

In Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings, VIsanthe Shiancoe had a game-high of six catches for 83 yards. In last week’s loss to the Jets, Dustin Keller found all the seams in the Miami defense, leading the Jets with six catches for 98 yards and adding a game-high two touchdowns.

With the Dolphins inability to contain the tight end and Hernandez’s big play ability—akin to Keller—Brady should look his way quite often in the Monday Night divisional showdown.

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