Patriots

Jimmy Garoppolo describes how Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle are similar

Jimmy Garoppolo describes how Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle are similar

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle was one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2018 NFL season, and more success likely is in store for him in 2019 with franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returning from major knee surgery.

Garoppolo's first campaign with the 49ers was cut short when he tore his ACL in Week 3. Despite not having a top-tier quarterback throwing him the ball, Kittle still managed to rank among the league's top tight ends with 88 receptions for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Playing alongside a top-tier tight end is not an unfamiliar scenario for Garoppolo, who, when he played, had the luxury of targeting Rob Gronkowski during their three seasons as teammates on the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo recently was asked by The Sporting News to compare Kittle and Gronkowski. Here's what the 27-year-old quarterback said:

There are a lot of similarities - on the field and a little bit off the field, too (laughs). George is tremendous. The energy he brings every day, how he goes about his business - he's always having fun while he's doing it. Very similar to Gronk, they both enjoy what they do.

It makes everything more enjoyable. It's fun to be around, and it's contagious. To have a guy like that makes our team so much closer as well as much better.

Gronkowski retired in March after a nine-year career that soon will be honored in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce is the leader to overtake Gronk as football's best tight end, but Kittle could mount a serious challenge with a strong 2019 season.

Kittle and Garoppolo have the potential to be one of the best QB/TE tandems in the league, and it's one of many reasons why 49ers fans are fired up for the coming season.

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Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

The Kansas City Chiefs could be without their star quarterback for an extended period of time.

Patrick Mahomes left Thursday night's game vs. the Denver Broncos with a right knee injury. The 2018 NFL MVP injured himself attempting a QB sneak in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game shortly thereafter.

Mahomes was able to walk off the field under his own power, but this looks like it could be a serious injury for the 24-year-old. If that's the case, the Patriots' path to another AFC title just got infinitely easier.

Mahomes will undergo an MRI on Friday.

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