Aaron Hernandez knows he’s a beast, and he loves it
|09.15.11 at 11:02 am ET|
FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez knows he’s unique in the NFL. And he doesn’t mind embracing everything that comes with being a 6-foot-1 tight end who weighs 245 pounds and can serve as a primary target for Tom Brady and also block big defensive ends when the need arises.
Monday night’s aerial performance might have been the best example of how Hernandez can open things up for the Patriots offense to put up “Madden-NFL” numbers.
He caught 10 balls for 103 yards, including a 1-yard TD pass in the 38-24 shootout in Miami. He constantly found open spaces in the soft underbelly of an overmatch Miami defense, that many times looked like they had no idea what was coming next.
That was all part of the grand plan according to Hernandez and coach Bill Belichick. It’s something that they plan on continuing this Sunday against the Chargers.
“Tom is definitely going to find the mismatch. When he gets to the line of scrimmage, and he sees the biggest mismatch, you know he’s coming,” Hernandez said.
“I think that’s the nature of any offense,” Belichick added. “You can’t move your five linemen, you can’t move the quarterback, you usually have a running back in the backfield so the players you move are your receivers or your tight ends and we’ve always done that. Both Aaron and Rob are versatile players, they can do some different things, they have different skills and they’re smart. You can move them around and give them different assignments and they’re able to handle that.”
The Patriots are facing a Chargers defense that led the NFL in 2010 but just lost a big, big piece when stud defensive end Luis Castillo went down Sunday with a broken leg in their win over Minnesota and is likely done for the season. Hernandez would have likely drawn several assignments on Castillo but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have welcomed the challenge.
“I definitely consider myself a tight end,” Hernandez said. “I’m 240 pounds. Not many receivers are 240. Not because people say I’m a receiver [and] I can’t block a 300-pound D-end but there’s not that many athletic tight ends in the league that are receiving tight ends that do block 300-pound D-ends. They just do the blocking jobs and the assignments that the coaches put before them.”
Belichick certainly considers blocking the defensive end part of any great tight end’s responsibility.
“That’s part of the nature of the tight end position I think,” Belichick said. “Whether you’re talking about [Antonio] Gates or [Anthony] Fasano or whoever we play next, that’s what most teams do. It is part of the formation, in a lot of cases, you set your defensive front based on a tight end’s location, you set your secondary rotation based on the tight end’s location so maneuvering those guys around, putting them in different positions, having them do different things, that’s what creates problems for the defense. I think all teams do that to some degree.
Do teams treat Hernandez as a tight end when they’re setting their defense?
“You have to ask them how they treat him, I don’t know,” Belichick said. “It depends on who we have on the field, who they have on the field, who else is in there but you’d have to talk to other teams about how they treat him, I don’t know the answer to that question.”