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How Gronkowski and Hernandez are “queens on the chessboard”

Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez AP

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the constants.  But what makes this 2011 Patriots go as opposed to teams in the past? What defines them?

We’d argue this era of Patriots football started the day they drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Wes Welker is a great piece to the puzzle, but the tight ends make the offense unique.

While Gronk Nation and Hernandez represent a very modern way of attacking defenses, Belichick in some ways has been working with this approach since the 1970′s. As a member of the Lions coaching staff, Belichick helped pair Charlie Sanders and David Hill in a two tight end attack that was the first of its era.

“Yeah, that was really the first – I mean, honestly there wasn’t a lot of two tight ends in the mid-70s, there really wasn’t,” Belichick told Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports this week.

We highly recommend checking out Cole’s piece on the evolution of the two tight end attack. Hill and Sanders combined for half of the Lions’ touchdowns in Hill’s rookie year of 1976. In the past, two tight ends would only be used together in short yardage situations. Sanders, a Hall of Famer, thanks Belichick every time he sees him.

“Bill always says back to me, ‘No, thank you and David [Hill] for all you did,” Sanders told Cole. “Without you guys, none of this would have happened.’ ”

Falcons coach Mike Smith explains the matchup problems that Gronkowski and Hernandez create, calling them “queens on the chessboard.”

“If you want to play standard personnel on defense, they flex one or both of those guys out and force you to cover them with linebackers. If you put extra defensive backs in, they line up in double-[tight end] and maul you. You never have the right personnel on the field,” Smith said.

That becomes an even bigger problem when the Patriots use their hurry up offense. Defenses can’t substitute to get the right matchups on the field.

We expect to see the Patriots play plenty of hurry up offense Sunday against Baltimore, with Gronkowski and Hernandez at the center of it all.

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62 Responses to “How Gronkowski and Hernandez are “queens on the chessboard””
  1. rc33 says: Jan 19, 2012 3:15 PM

    Make it rain on Sunday, AH.

  2. bbrophy1 says: Jan 19, 2012 3:31 PM

    the Packers did this pretty well in 1996, especially during the playoffs, with Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura. The 2 TE set never received the credit it deserved.

  3. lionsfanatic84 says: Jan 19, 2012 3:31 PM

    I cant wait to hear Belichek on the lions coaching staff jokes

  4. explosionsauce says: Jan 19, 2012 3:32 PM

    49ers vs Patriots. The tight end Super Bowl

  5. cwhiteheadesq says: Jan 19, 2012 3:33 PM

    Nice headline change. But “Falcons Coach Calls Gronk/Hernandez ‘Queens’” would have been more fun.

  6. marvsleezy says: Jan 19, 2012 3:36 PM

    If you put extra defensive backs in, they line up in double-[tight end] and maul you.
    __________
    Do they though?? Anybody really afraid of the Pats running game? Get your defensive backs out there – Double Gronk at all times – Make them beat you with the run or with the wideouts.

    Letting those tight ends go for 20 yards a catch or more down the field is much worse than having them gain some hard fought rushing yards.

  7. dmretrogames says: Jan 19, 2012 3:37 PM

    The problem will be on the other side of the ball. The Pats have no answer for Ray Rice. Despite what they did to Tebow, their defense is quite awful.

    They’ll get to Brady enough to throw him off his rhythm. Maybe not the blowout of a couple years ago, but the Ravens will win.

    They’ve beaten seven teams with winning records this year. New England has beaten none.

  8. nfceastisbeast says: Jan 19, 2012 3:37 PM

    Always here about how great Bill Parcells was. Got a question for you guys. How many Super Bowls did Parcells win without Belichick and how many did Belichick win without Parcells? Let me go one further, how many would Parcells have won if he didn’t have Belichick running his Giants defenses? He’s flat out the best coach ever.

  9. austrianpanther says: Jan 19, 2012 3:40 PM

    Where’s Bibi???

  10. tmaczoozoo says: Jan 19, 2012 3:46 PM

    More like Maidens in the court of Queen Brady.

  11. ebeg420 says: Jan 19, 2012 3:46 PM

    Just like Tom Brady is a “Queen on the Dance Floor”….

  12. dawhorsefeathers says: Jan 19, 2012 3:48 PM

    The Ravens tend to shut down tight ends. What if the most productive TE on Sunday is named Pitta or Dickson? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria?

  13. patsfiend says: Jan 19, 2012 3:50 PM

    “Help me. I can’t breathe!”
    Cried old Ray Lewis, in pain,
    as the Pats hurried.

  14. flapjackdaddy says: Jan 19, 2012 3:51 PM

    Gronkowski is a beast.

  15. ahostiletakeover says: Jan 19, 2012 3:51 PM

    Mad props to Gronk, he is a rare complete tight end. That said, the Ravens have personnel who can match up well. 2 big physical cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams and a very good coverage linebacker in Ayanbadejo. The Ravens limited him to one or two catches if I’m not mistakened when they met last year, but Gronk has undoubtedly improved since then. It will definitely be interesting come Sunday…

  16. thompgk says: Jan 19, 2012 3:51 PM

    Bill Parcells tried this with Jason Witten and Anthony Fasano. Unfortunately Anthony Fasono was just an average all around player.

  17. 6ball says: Jan 19, 2012 3:53 PM

    .

    Smith ; ” you never have the right personnel on the field “.

    Exactly ..Brady finds the mismatch on the pre snap read and runs the play as called, or audibilizes into something more favorable. It’s very difficult to account for all their weapons.

    .

  18. alan says: Jan 19, 2012 3:53 PM

    Welker is every bit as important as both Gronkowski and Hernandez. He is a threat that must always be accounted for, thus making creating more space for these two extremely talented TEs.

  19. phinfan says: Jan 19, 2012 3:55 PM

    Weird I thought the only Queen in the AFC East was Sanchez?!?!

  20. khuxford says: Jan 19, 2012 3:58 PM

    Queens? That’s unfortunate labeling that won’t result in any jokes from their teammates or opposing players.

  21. americankris says: Jan 19, 2012 4:05 PM

    Pats had Daniel Graham and Benjamin Waston before Gronk and Hernandez

  22. meepein says: Jan 19, 2012 4:06 PM

    Mad props to Gronk, he is a rare complete tight end. That said, the Ravens have personnel who can match up well. 2 big physical cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams and a very good coverage linebacker in Ayanbadejo. The Ravens limited him to one or two catches if I’m not mistakened when they met last year, but Gronk has undoubtedly improved since then. It will definitely be interesting come Sunday…

    —-

    Small point here: The Ravens limited Gronk to a few catches in what I think was his third game in his rookie year. He had yet to fully integrate into the Pats offense. The Gronk they faced then is not the Gronk they face now. That was more of a Proto-Gronk.

  23. steelbydesign says: Jan 19, 2012 4:08 PM

    If you put extra defensive backs in, they line up in double-[tight end] and maul you.

    ==============================

    The Steelers put a rookie DB on Gronk for much of the game when they played this season and had a lot of success.

  24. ortonwhiskeycrew says: Jan 19, 2012 4:14 PM

    get gronked

  25. sonvar says: Jan 19, 2012 4:16 PM

    Isn’t it questionable for Hernandez to be playing? I thought he suffered a concussion against the Broncos

  26. yahmule says: Jan 19, 2012 4:20 PM

    On the chessboard, you say?

  27. sbellare3 says: Jan 19, 2012 4:22 PM

    “We’d argue that this era of Patriots football started the day they drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.”

    I’m just saying this to be a pain, but Gronkowski and Hernandez were not drafted on the same day. Gronkowski was a day 2 pick and Hernadez was day 3. Haha sorry I’m done being a tool.

  28. chocolatebaconbutter says: Jan 19, 2012 4:23 PM

    You can’t let these 2 beasts get free release. Letting them just run up the field is a death sentence. Someone should be jamming on every play. Disrupt that timing and give your line enough time to him pressure Brady.

  29. ingloriousmaster says: Jan 19, 2012 4:23 PM

    They’ve beaten seven teams with winning records this year. New England has beaten none.
    ———————————————————

    The Ravens also lost to San Diego, Jacksonville and wait for it….THE RAMS

    Pats lost to the Bills, Giants and Steelers

    With that said, this should be one heck of an AFC champ game

  30. infectorman says: Jan 19, 2012 4:24 PM

    After these 2 “queens” combine for 200 + yards and 2-3 touchdowns, I wonder how many Raven fans will have the stones to come back on here and give them props?
    Hernandez is FAR too fast for the Old Man Lewis and his pregame, epileptic-is-the-camera-on-me? histrionics, and GRONK will simply run through him.
    Baltimore Ravens Defense = running on their past reputation.

    Beatin’ up on the sisters of the poor all season won’t amount to JAck, against THIS offense.
    BEt!

  31. Slim Charles says: Jan 19, 2012 4:27 PM

    I was hoping for a Wire reference…

  32. matthewcarlson1 says: Jan 19, 2012 4:29 PM

    Anybody else tired of hearing about how good these TEs are? We get it.

  33. belairirish says: Jan 19, 2012 4:33 PM

    6ball says:
    Jan 19, 2012 3:53 PM
    .

    Smith ; ” you never have the right personnel on the field “.

    Exactly ..Brady finds the mismatch on the pre snap read and runs the play as called, or audibilizes into something more favorable. It’s very difficult to account for all their weapons.

    —————————————-

    That’s why the Ravens need to hit Brady early and often.

  34. bigfella87 says: Jan 19, 2012 4:34 PM

    @ingloriousmaster

    The Ravens not only beat the Rams, but they spanked them 37-7. Good….wait for it….try.

  35. dexterismyhero says: Jan 19, 2012 4:35 PM

    @infectorman says:Jan 19, 2012 4:24 PM

    After these 2 “queens” combine for 200 + yards and 2-3 touchdowns, I wonder how many Raven fans will have the stones to come back on here and give them props?
    Hernandez is FAR too fast for the Old Man Lewis and his pregame, epileptic-is-the-camera-on-me? histrionics, and GRONK will simply run through him.
    Baltimore Ravens Defense = running on their past reputation.

    Beatin’ up on the sisters of the poor all season won’t amount to JAck, against THIS offense.
    BEt!
    =================================
    and if they don’t will you be back on here “INFECTORMAN”.

    And I’m a fan of neither. Lil sisters of the poor? R U from Ohio St?

  36. belairirish says: Jan 19, 2012 4:36 PM

    ingloriousmaster says:
    Jan 19, 2012 4:23 PM
    They’ve beaten seven teams with winning records this year. New England has beaten none.
    ———————————————————

    The Ravens also lost to San Diego, Jacksonville and wait for it….THE RAMS

    Pats lost to the Bills, Giants and Steelers

    With that said, this should be one heck of an AFC champ game

    ———————————————-

    Ravens beat the Rams 37-7, Torrey Smith’s 3 TD coming out party. They lost to the Jags, Titans, Chargers and Seahawks.

  37. ghostofgilchrist says: Jan 19, 2012 4:38 PM

    I’d let you watch, I would invite you, but the Queen’s wheels would not excite you.

  38. Blackbird0520 says: Jan 19, 2012 4:41 PM

    Ingloriousmaster
    Jan 19, 2012, 4:23 PM EST
    They’ve beaten seven teams with winning records this year. New England has beaten none.
    ———————————————————

    The Ravens also lost to San Diego, Jacksonville and wait for it….THE RAMS
    ………………
    Get your facts straight clown. Ravens smashed the rams. Lost to Seattle, Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Diego.
    #PCBG Ravens 27-21 let’s goooooo

  39. CKL says: Jan 19, 2012 4:46 PM

    americankris says:
    Jan 19, 2012 4:05 PM
    Pats had Daniel Graham and Benjamin Waston before Gronk and Hernandez
    ___________________________________
    I know, and they spent a 1st rounder on each of them while they got these current two in the 2nd and 4th.

    You just never know.

  40. portnoychunk says: Jan 19, 2012 4:53 PM

    bigfella87 says: Jan 19, 2012 4:34 PM

    @ingloriousmaster

    The Ravens not only beat the Rams, but they spanked them 37-7. Good….wait for it….try.

    ^^^^^^^

    I wouldn’t get too snarky if the team you actually lost to was the Seahawks. Just because the dude was wrong about which team it was, doesn’t mean his point wasn’t relevant. Pats played several teams that had winning records at the time and ended up 8-8. Baltimore did not have to play many first rate offenses this year. At the end of the day, who each team played means nothing. Who plays the best Sunday is all that matters. The rest is pointless noise.

  41. nejerseygirl says: Jan 19, 2012 4:55 PM

    steelbydesign says:
    Jan 19, 2012 4:08 PM
    If you put extra defensive backs in, they line up in double-[tight end] and maul you.
    ==============================
    The Steelers put a rookie DB on Gronk for much of the game when they played this season and had a lot of success.
    _____________

    Seriously, can we just get through ONE story about the AFC Championship without someone mentioning how “good” the Steelers are?

  42. scamnewton says: Jan 19, 2012 4:56 PM

    There’s only one queen in New England and that’s Queen Brady.

  43. pastabelly says: Jan 19, 2012 4:56 PM

    americankris says:
    Jan 19, 2012 4:05 PM
    Pats had Daniel Graham and Benjamin Waston before Gronk and Hernandez
    =================================
    Hard to believe that Graham and Watson were 1st round picks and Gronk and Hernandez were 2nd and 3rd round picks. These two guys are legitimate weapons. They make a big difference to the offense. They still need to pay Welker in the offseason. WR is a problem position in NE.

  44. infectorman says: Jan 19, 2012 5:10 PM

    @dexterismyhero:

    I’ll be on here, win or lose…

    GO PATS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. all4patriots says: Jan 19, 2012 5:25 PM

    Versatility.

    Gronk, Hernandez, Welker, Woodhead, Edelman (when he is in) can all line up wide right, wide left, in either slot, or in the backfield, sometimes in bunches, and run a wide variety of routes.

    With the no-huddle they can then get positioned such that the defensive personnel cannot cover something, and then milk that advantage for an entire drive with the D not being able to substitute.

    It also gets the D gassed by the 4th quarter.

  46. lowleadman says: Jan 19, 2012 5:26 PM

    dmretrogames says:Jan 19, 2012 3:37 PM

    The problem will be on the other side of the ball. The Pats have no answer for Ray Rice. Despite what they did to Tebow, their defense is quite awful.

    They’ll get to Brady enough to throw him off his rhythm. Maybe not the blowout of a couple years ago, but the Ravens will win.

    They’ve beaten seven teams with winning records this year. New England has beaten none.
    ———————————————————

    Well, with the 4-4 on the road Ravens, I guess that trend will continue. All we can do is play the team across the field. You will have your head between your legs after you see Gronk carry RayRay 20 yds downfield on his back. Schedules are compliled 4 years in advance. Don’t come on here using irrelevant stats to attempt to sound knowledgable.

    Right this down my friend

    Pats 34
    Ravens 17

  47. gdeli says: Jan 19, 2012 5:29 PM

    I wouldn’t say that to their faces. Not a good idea. ha

  48. 2sausage11 says: Jan 19, 2012 5:40 PM

    speaking of “QUEEN” doesn’t Flacco look like Freddie Mercury

  49. purplengold says: Jan 19, 2012 5:43 PM

    Freddie Mercury just rolled over

  50. lanman11 says: Jan 19, 2012 6:07 PM

    For NE, this will likely come down to Welker and The Law Firm. Secure the ball. Move the chains. Use time. Score. Rest the defense. Wear down the Ravens defense. Basically, Brady dictating the game. But I won’t be shocked if it does turn into a Gronk and Hernandez show, but based on the hype, I would expect the Ravens to be focused on those guys. Maybe this is Ochocinco’s breakout game!

    For Baltimore, it will be Ray Rice and Torrey Smith. I expect the Ravens to be looking to go deep early to Torrey Smith for a big play to relieve the pressure that has surfaced recently, and take advantage of the focus on Rice. Smith draws PI penalties as well, which could be a factor. I know Boldin is back but Smith seems to be the big play guy.

    The Ravens sound more and more like the Jets every day with regard to “if we say it, it will happen,” which is along the lines of “build it and they will come.”

    It should be a tough game though. It always is between these two. Nobody gets a free ticket to the SB!

  51. ahostiletakeover says: Jan 19, 2012 6:21 PM

    Portnoychunk, your last statement is absolutely right, whoever both teams already played is irrelevant, but you are discrediting a tough Seahawks team. By your own methods of saying the Pats beat several teams with winning records who eventually finished 8-8, the Seahawks defense was a top 10 unit when the Ravens played them. In a 22-17 pt loss, the Ravens kicker missed 2 FGs and their kick returner giftwrapped 6 Seattle pts with two fumbles deep in Raven territory, a 6 pt swing in two fashions in a 5 pt loss. Not making excuses, the Seahawks were the better team that day, but there are two sides to every tale my friend.

    Infectorman, I already praised Gronk in an above post while being objective about the game, and yes I am a Ravens fan.

    Lowleadman, schedules are not made 4 years in advance as 2 games for every team are not determined until the final standings of the year. Same rotation every four years with the exception of those two games but not made 4 years in advance. Thumbs up for intelligence over blind fandom!

  52. gronkanator says: Jan 19, 2012 6:29 PM

    payback time from 09′ we will actually have welker and our 2 te’s to deal with this time around. that old ravens D is gonna get another early playoff exit!
    if your only weapon on offense is ray rice your gonna be in for a long day……

  53. rmc1995 says: Jan 19, 2012 7:15 PM

    @portnoychunk,
    It’s perfectly fine to be snarky with someone who writes, “wait for it” and then is completely incorrect with the supposed payoff.

  54. matthews82 says: Jan 19, 2012 8:11 PM

    Its not significant. They only have so many yards because in the Goodell era every year there are new rules against defenders. The defense really cant do anything about it.

  55. iplaybad says: Jan 19, 2012 8:49 PM

    As a Colorado fan, I love Jimmy’s skills and also find Cary Williams to be extremely underrated. With that said, neither will be able to guard Hernandez and Gronk one on one without getting burned on key big plays. That’s where Ed Reed comes into consideration (i.e. Reed can limit the scope of those plays with a 20-30 yard gain instead of a TD). If he does as he’s capable and sniffs Brady out, this game will be close. If Brady neutralizes Senor Reed, then Patriot Nation will rejoice.

    As for Flacco, he’s going to need to step up big time. Until he does so in one of these conference championship games, he’s just going to be a delta bravo with a dumb mustache. When the vertical threat is on to Smith and Boldin, Ray Rice underneath is deadly.

  56. commandercornpone says: Jan 19, 2012 9:06 PM

    wow, i didnt know the vi-queens were playing this weekend.

  57. ihatetheeffingjets says: Jan 19, 2012 9:22 PM

    americankris says:
    Jan 19, 2012 4:05 PM
    Pats had Daniel Graham and Benjamin Waston before Gronk and Hernandez

     ——————–
    That’s like saying the 49ers had Steve Spurrier before Joe Montana.

  58. j0esixpack says: Jan 19, 2012 9:59 PM

    Most Patriots observers have long noted that Belichick has always been searching for a strong Two TE approach.

    It’s taken him awhile to find the guys up to the task, but Belichick knows just how vulnerable most defenses are to that sort of attack.

  59. bozosforall says: Jan 20, 2012 11:19 AM

    After hearing that Gronkowski didn’t end up sleeping with Bibi and was only friends with her, I already knew that he was a “queen”. Makes sense that he plays for the New England team, given that they are so gay-friendly up there – congrats on your open-mindedness, NE residents. I hear that the male Pats fans up there also appreciate how their region is so supportive of their alternative lifestyles…the scores of ugly NE women up there aren’t so appreciative, given how that shrinks the pool of available husband material though.

  60. howiegtr says: Jan 20, 2012 12:46 PM

    bozosforall says:
    Jan 20, 2012 11:19 AM
    After hearing that Gronkowski didn’t end up sleeping with Bibi and was only friends with her, I already knew that he was a “queen”. Makes sense that he plays for the New England team, given that they are so gay-friendly up there – congrats on your open-mindedness, NE residents. I hear that the male Pats fans up there also appreciate how their region is so supportive of their alternative lifestyles…the scores of ugly NE women up there aren’t so appreciative, given how that shrinks the pool of available husband material though.
    ————————————————–
    This is proof that incest and inbreeding is so rampid in the south. Hey dude, tell your sister I said hi before you rollover and give her a kiss tonight in bed. Jackass.

  61. bozosforall says: Jan 20, 2012 2:52 PM

    howiegtr says:
    Jan 20, 2012 12:46 PM
    bozosforall says:
    Jan 20, 2012 11:19 AM
    After hearing that Gronkowski didn’t end up sleeping with Bibi and was only friends with her, I already knew that he was a “queen”. Makes sense that he plays for the New England team, given that they are so gay-friendly up there – congrats on your open-mindedness, NE residents. I hear that the male Pats fans up there also appreciate how their region is so supportive of their alternative lifestyles…the scores of ugly NE women up there aren’t so appreciative, given how that shrinks the pool of available husband material though.
    ————————————————–
    This is proof that incest and inbreeding is so rampid in the south. Hey dude, tell your sister I said hi before you rollover and give her a kiss tonight in bed. Jackass.

    __
    I’m not from the South, but given that every state in New England except for New Hampshire allows cousins to be married (while only about half of the states in the South do), it appears that not only is it more likely that you are a product of inbreeding than anyone from the South, but it also appears that it has severely affected your mental development. Jerkwad.

  62. bozosforall says: Jan 20, 2012 5:46 PM

    j0esixpack says:
    Jan 19, 2012 9:59 PM
    Most Patriots observers have long noted that Belichick has always been searching for a strong Two TE approach.

    __
    Belichick has definitely shown a penchant for turning TEs into WRs.

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