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Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: ‘I don’t think [the Patriots] are as good as the Broncos right now’

08.11.14 at 10:59 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan Monday morning to discuss the state of the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski‘€™s potential this season and Johnny Manziel‘€™s long-term future in the NFL. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

While the Patriots have bolstered their roster this offseason with the addition of players such as Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell, Hasselbeck said that the team to beat in the AFC is still the Broncos, who defeated New England in the AFC Championship Game, 26-16, on Jan. 19.

“œI don’€™t think they are as good as the Broncos right now,” Hasselbeck said. “The biggest key to me offensively for New England is that if Gronkowski plays 16 games, they’€™re brutal to defend. If he’€™s not, they’€™re a different group. They’€™re a totally different offense to defend and while they still have good players and they’€™ll still have good game plans each and every week, he, in my estimation, is the most important player on that offense outside of [Tom] Brady.

“They’€™re better on defense then they were a year ago, there’€™s no question about that. … But you look at Denver, they got better too. To me, if Gronkowski is healthy, they can play with anybody. If he’€™s not, then you have to be a little bit worried.”

While Gronkowski has been an active presence at training camp this summer, Hasselbeck remained skeptical that an injury-prone player like Gronkowski would be able to make it though a full 16-game NFL season.

“€œJust think about how the rules are set up. So where does [Gronkowski] do most of his work? Inside the numbers. So if you’€™re running down the field – full speed -€“ and a lot of times, because of his size, the ball is going to be chin or higher on him. … So if that happens and you’€™re a safety, where are you hitting him? They’€™re going to saw his legs off. It’€™s exactly the situation where he got hurt. Look, in fairness to the safeties that do that, they’€™re going to get fined going high going up high on him.”

He may have only made one preseason appearance under his belt, but Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is already one of the most discussed players in the league. While Manziel certainly possesses the tools to be an NFL starting quarterback, Hasselbeck added that the Texas A&M product will need to learn to make better decisions under center in order to achieve sustained success at the next level.

“I think if he tries to play like he did at A&M, then I think he’€™ll struggle and he’€™ll be bad,” Hasselbeck said. “I think if he can learn to get rid of some of the habits he had in college, then I think he has the physical tools to be a good player. … If you want to be consistently good in the NFL, you don’€™t pass up open guys -€“ he did that a ton at A&M – and then he would run around and he would make a play. He’€™s physically talented. He’€™s not physically talented to do that in the NFL and especially be good on a consistent basis doing that.”

While Manziel has received most of the hype and coverage amongst NFL rookies this season, Hasselbeck said the newcomer that everyone should be keeping an eye on is Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

“I said in the draft process that the best prospect at the quarterback position coming out this year – the most NFL ready without a doubt – was Blake Bortles,” Hasselbeck said. “I guess he’€™s kind of boring compared to Manziel. … But what he did under George O’€™Leary translated to the NFL. You could watch it and see it and it made sense. … Maybe because it’€™s Jacksonville, people don’€™t really care about that team because they haven’€™t had much success, but I think he should probably play sooner rather than later.”

For more Patriots news, go to the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Rob Gronkowksi, Tim Hasselbeck
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