Archive for the ‘Aaron Hernandez’ Category


The cauldron of NFL coverage has turned out its share of icky clichés. That’s the nature of a league which has the shortest and most intensely scrutinized season, yet there’s a need — no, a thirst — for more after the Super Bowl in early February. We need more speculation, more narrative, more controversy, and more conjecture. Mostly, we need a football item to discuss, and anything will do.

This is how the code commonly known as the “Patriot Way” was born, and it’s now used colloquially. What exactly it means depends on who you’re speaking to, and your geographic location. Some may think it refers simply to not just winning, but winning regardless of who’s on the field. Even if, say, your star quarterback breaks his leg and Matt Cassel has to start for nearly an entire season. Onwards and upwards.

More commonly, the Patriot Way is known as a complete intolerance for any inappropriate conduct and malcontent behavior. Oh, there’s been exceptions (some briefly), but when Albert Haynesworth began reverting to his natural tendencies while not producing, he was released. And when Chad Ochocinco/Johnson was utterly unproductive, he was marginalized and discarded.

Randy Moss wasn’t able to shut up, and then he was told to talk somewhere else that isn’t the patriots dressing room. Then earlier this offseason there was the cold treatment of defensive tackle Kyle Long, who was cut after being diagnosed with diabetes. There are two core requirements to march in Belichick’s line: produce, and behave (and apparently the lesser known stipulation about not contracting a disease).

Not meeting one can result in an abrupt termination. Aaron Hernandez become the latest case study today when he was released hours after his arrest in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd.

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Both Brian Urlacher and Ed Reed are preparing to begin their fade into the veteran abyss. They’re both 34 years old, but the difference is that Reed’s descent is still at least one year away if not more after he still played at a high level this past season, while Urlacher’s decline is very much in progress. He plays a far more physically demanding position, and that’s made his decay a little less gradual.

Now after 13 years with one team and 1,362 tackles, it’s time to move on. It sucks that football is a business.

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After only a handful of snaps, Rob Gronkowski’s forearm snapped — again. He was done for the game against the Texans, and four days later, done for the year after being put on injured reserve.

Typically, when a star tight end goes out due to injury, it’s a crushing blow to his team’s offense because of the sheer amount of production that must be replaced. But that’s not the case with the Patriots, who are the modern day masters at adjusting on the fly and working with the pieces they have on the field.

The offense has spread the football around more to the running backs in the absence of Gronkowski, who missed five games in the regular season (weeks 12-16), while also replying more heavily on H-back Aaron Hernandez to pick up the slack.

Hernandez’s role in the offense has been affected not only by an increase in targets, but in his alignments as well. With Gronkowski on the field, the two tight ends are part of what I like to call a master formation. What this means is that the two tight ends are versatile enough to allow the Patriots to stay with one personnel grouping and run all sorts of concepts. At times, they’re able to run the ball effectively, as they can to pass it with these formations because of how well-rounded of an athlete Gronkowski is.

He is able to line up as a traditional tight end — in football parlance, “Y” is the given name — at the end of the formation and block defensive ends and linebackers like an offensive tackle due to his quick feet and hulking strength. And from the same alignment, he can threaten defensive backs down the seam with above-average speed and great size, which are a dangerous combination, and they’re attributes that create mismatches for defenses.

With Gronkowski in the game, Hernandez is given more freedom as a receiver because he is able to line up all over the formation and be a mismatch against smaller defensive backs or slower linebackers. Frequently, he’ll line up detached from the formation in a flex alignment (generally a three to four-yard split from LOS), or at times, in the backfield where the Patriots know he’ll be facing man coverage from an inside linebacker, who tends to be one of the slower pass defenders.

Moreover, the combination (12 personnel) is very troublesome for defenses because it forces them to either play with their base defense, which leads to them getting beat in the passing game, or go to their sub-packages, which leads them to getting beat in the running game. And when worst comes to worst, they try to go to those sub-packages and the Patriots simply go to their no-huddle offense to eliminate substitutions.

But with Gronkowski out, the master formation is different.

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After toying with our emotions the last few weeks, it appears Aaron Hernandez will fill the void created by Rob Gronkowski’s broken forearm when New England travels to New York on Thursday night.

Hernandez was expected to play against the Colts on Sunday, but the Patriots’ braintrust opted not to rush the versatile tight end back. It’s that kind of foresight that makes Gronkowski hitting the field on a meaningless extra point attempt in a blowout all the more baffling. Come on, Bill.

Interestingly enough, Hernandez last saw the field against the Jets in Week 7. In that game he was targeted seven times by Tom Brady, catching five balls for 54 yards. In contrast, Gronk caught six passes for 78 yards and two scores. This bodes well for Hernandez owners.

Keep an eye on the Pats’ injury report as Thursday night approaches, but for now all signs point to the return of AH.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is expected to miss a third straight game due to his ankle injury. Hernandez, who was injured in Week 2, has only 143 yards on 17 receptions and two touchdowns this season.

The absence of Hernandez means more targets for Rob Gronkowski, and likely an increase for Wes Welker too, as Hernandez often plays a similar slot role.

Aaron Hernandez is OUT

Bad news out of New England this morning. Aaron Hernandez will not play against the Bills, even though he had practiced twice this week.

The Patriots have activated Visanthe Shiancoe, joining Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and Rob Gronkowski in a quartet that will surely victimize a pourous Bills secondary.

This will likely be our final Aaron Hernandez update of the week. The ultimate stamp of approval on his health is the fact that the twitching of the tight end’s ankle is nearly no longer considered newsworthy.

Yesterday, we passed along the wondrous news that he practiced for the second straight day after missing the Patriots’ game in London two weeks ago and resting during a bye week. However, he may have been at least slightly limited still Thursday, giving life to your concerns, and possibly even fueling the desire to bench him in favor of Dwayne Allen last night among those of you who are both conservative, and in deep leagues. A deadly combination indeed.

But no worries, guys. If it sounded like Hernandez was fine yesterday, it really sounds like he’s fine today.

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