Fueled by the performances of then-rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the New England tight end contingent combined for 18 touchdown catches in 2010. That was actually one more scoring reception than the Patriots got from the position the three previous years combined.
Last season, the trio of Gronkowski, Hernandez and the now-departed Alge Crumpler posted an aggregate 93 receptions for 1,161 yards. For the 2007-09 campaigns, by comparison, the Pats' tight end groups averaged only 40.0 catches and 438.7 yards.
The resurrection of the nearly extinct tight end spot in New England largely began with the selection of Gronkowski in the second round of the '10 draft, and the follow-up choice of Hernandez in the third round. And then it continued with the conscious decision by the New England offensive staff to retool a passing-game design that had become increasingly reliant on its wide-receiver corps.
"I think we knew we had to get better (at tight end)," Patriots coach Bill ...