It’s been well-documented the Eagles have a bitch of a time covering teams’ opposing tight ends.
It’s also been well-documented the Patriots happen to have a very good tight end in Aaron Hernandez.
Talk about Vince Young and Michael Vick all you want. Talk about the need for the Eagles to match sense of urgency and desperation with which they played against the Giants. That’s terrfic. But if the Eagles have any designs of winning for only the second time in their last nine home games, they’re going to have to stop Rob Gronkowski to do it.
Gronkowski has already compiled 56 catches for 805 yards and an astounding 10 touchdowns this season. In 26 career starts, Gronkowski has 98 catches for 1,351 yards and 20 touchdowns. His combination of size, strength and speed have baffled opposing defenses as Tom Brady finds ways to get the ball to the second-year tightend from Arizona even when every single person in the stadium knows the ball is coming his way.
The good news for the Eagles is that Chad Ochocinco is a complete nonfactor, and Deion Branch shouldn’t sniff his 11 catch, 133 yard Super Bowl XXXIX MVP performance against the Eagles this time around.
Of course, the Patriots do have the extremely dangerous Wes Welker, but Welker is a player better at moving the chains than hitting the home run the Philadelphia defense has been vulnerable to much of this season.
Ian Rapaport of the Boston Herald highlighted in a recent article the Patriots’ growing dependency on their tight ends. According to Rapoport, Hernandez and Gronkowski have been targeted 84 times for 56 receptions and 675 yards since Week 5. Welker and Branch have less targets, receptions and yards during that same stretch.
How Juan Castillo plans to utilize his back seven to neutralize the potent, but somewhat unconvential passing attack have a much greater impact on this game than who starts at quarterback for the Eagles.