Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- During Sunday's training camp practice for the Patriots there was a moment that, had it been caught on tape and disseminated throughout the league, might have had defensive coordinators everywhere reaching for some Pepto. 

First, Rob Gronkowski got by Jamie Collins and reeled in a touchdown from Tom Brady in the back corner of the end zone that led to a loud celebration with fans in the community-relations tent nearby. Then, two plays later, Jimmy Garoppolo found Martellus Bennett on a similar route, on the same slice of turf, for a touchdown grab with Jordan Richards in coverage. 

They looked like nearly-identical plays with nearly-identical results, turned in by two very large and talented individuals. The Patriots have tried to use other tight ends in conjuction with Gronkowski -- most recently Scott Chandler -- but at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Bennett seems to be the most similar to his new All-Pro teammate when it comes to his size and athleticism.

In terms of the number of responsibilities Bennett can handle, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that he and Gronkowski are actually somewhat interchangeable. 

 

"Marty's shown up well in all phases of the game," Belichick told Sirius XM NFL Radio's "Movin' the Chains" show. "Blocking, receiving, and he's a good downfield receiver, a big target, can go up and get the ball.

"He and Rob are really different, but they're kind of interchangeable. They can both block. They can both catch down the field. They can run the intermediate routes, they're both huge targets. I know the quarterbacks love throwing to them."

 

The Patriots have a handful of other tight ends who are vying for playing time in camp, including undrafted rookies Bryce Williams and Steven Scheu, Clay Harbor (currently on the physically unable to perform list), Bear Pascoe, AJ Derby and full back James Develin, who often works out with the tight ends.

While those players provide good depth, they don't possess the physical talents of the top two players on the depth chart at that position. Not many in the league do. 

"I think it gives us a little variety, in terms of having to match up against one guy is hard," Belichick said. "Now, having to match up against two of them, hopefully we can put a little pressure on the defense both in the running game and the passing game."