2013 DRAFT GUIDE
Patriots TEs could be double trouble for Texans

By HOWARD ULMAN - AP Sports Writer
    2013-01-10 18:44

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - The New England Patriots didn't need Rob Gronkowski when they dominated the Houston Texans last month.

Now he's back.

And that gives the Texans, 42-14 losers on Dec. 10, a tougher challenge in Sunday's rematch in a divisional playoff game.

``Obviously, he's a great player,'' Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said Thursday. ``So any time you can throw him in there, it's a good thing.''

It's even better when Gronkowski is out there with their other star tight end, Aaron Hernandez.

But they played together in just five games this season. Hernandez missed six of the first 10 with a sprained right ankle. Then Gronkowski sat out the next five with a broken left forearm before returning for limited action in the regular-season finale, a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in which he caught just two passes, one for a 23-yard touchdown.

In their previous two NFL regular seasons, Gronkowski played in all 32 games, Hernandez in 28. They combined for 87 catches in 2010 and 169 in 2011. They were productive when healthy this season with Gronkowski catching 55 passes with 11 touchdowns and Hernandez grabbing 51 with five scores.

``Two's always better than one,'' special teams captain and wide receiver Matthew Slater said.

But to Tom Brady, just having them on the field doesn't mean anything. They need to produce.

``It's a matter of execution more than anything,'' the Patriots quarterback said. ``Just because (Gronkowski) may have the opportunity to be out there on a particular play doesn't matter if we don't execute it well.''

Gronkowski was protecting his left arm when he faced Miami, trying to keep it away from contact. The importance of his health was evident last year when his playing status was listed as questionable for the Super Bowl just 48 hours before the game.

He had suffered a high-ankle sprain two weeks earlier in the Patriots' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game. That hampered him in the Super Bowl

He had just two catches for 26 yards after a season in which he had 105 receptions, 15 of them in the other two postseason games.

On the last play of the 21-17 loss to the New York Giants, Brady made one desperation heave for the championship, a long pass to the right side of the end zone on the last play. Hernandez and three Giants went up for the ball, Gronkowski lunged for it as it was heading for the ground, and it fell incomplete.

After the season, Gronkowski had arthroscopic surgery on the ankle. Then he broke his forearm while blocking on an extra point in a 59-24 win over the Colts. He still may not be completely healthy, but Gronkowski is ready for whatever he's asked to do.

``I'll give the coaches a great look of what I can do (in practice) so they're prepared for the game and what to call,'' he said. ``So whatever the coaches have in mind, I've just got to perform the best I can.''

The better he and Hernandez do that, the more coverage they're likely to draw. And that would give wide receivers Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch more room to operate.

``The more weapons you have, the more guys have to pay attention to those guys,'' Welker said. ``Obviously, Aaron and Gronk are definitely guys you have to pay attention to.''

The double threat they pose, though, is no guarantee of success. In their five games together, the Patriots are just 3-2.

Gronkowski caught five touchdown passes in dominating wins over the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts in which Hernandez was sidelined. Hernandez caught two scoring passes in the last month's rout of the Texans.

On Sunday, as a 9 1/2-point underdog, Houston will face Gronkowski for the first time in his pro career.

``He's exceptional,'' Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. ``If the ball is close to him, he's going to catch it. The thing about him, people play him with corners on him. They play him with (line)backers on him. They play him with safeties. His size is just such that it's just hard. You get in there and bang with him, you're going to lose that battle. Obviously, we didn't see him the first time around so it'll be different for us, but a big, big challenge for us.''

Last year, Gronkowski set a single-season record for tight ends with 17 touchdowns. This year, he might have broken that had he not been injured.

On Sunday, after a bye that gave his forearm extra time to heal, he could be as dangerous as ever.

``I'm always eager,'' he said. ``Who wouldn't be? It's football. You want to go out there and give your best.''

Combine his strength with Hernandez's elusiveness - and their excellent hands and route-running to boot - and the Patriots should be better equipped against a Texans team determined to make up for their recent flop on the same field.

``They have good players, too,'' Slater said. ``We're very fortunate to have two young men as talented as they are on our team. We're going to need it come Sunday. All hands on deck.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Josh MorganApr 22 09:52a

Chicago Bears WR Joshua Morgan is likely to compete for the No. 3 or 4 wide receiver role this year, and he'll compete with WRs Domenik Hixon, Eric Weems [ More ]

Will HillApr 22 09:33a

New York Giants FS Will Hill is facing a year-long suspension after reportedly failing another drug test. He will appeal what would be his third drug-related suspension.

Kyle WilliamsApr 21 09:33p

The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed WR Kyle Williams Monday, April 21. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Colt AndersonApr 21 07:12p

The Indianapolis Colts signed free-agent FS Colt Anderson (Eagles) to an undisclosed deal Monday, April 21.

Jamar TaylorApr 21 06:43p

Miami Dolphins CB Jamar Taylor (groin) is healthy following hernia surgery and began offseason workouts with his teammates Monday, April 21. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said he expects [ More ]

Dustin KellerApr 21 05:42p

Eugene Parker, agent for free-agent TE Dustin Keller (knee), said Keller is ready to participate in offseason workouts when he signs with a team.

Eric FisherApr 21 05:12p

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (shoulder, hernia) said there is no timetable for his return following multiple surgeries, but he doesn't think he'll be out for long. 'He's [ More ]

Josh MorganApr 21 04:02p

The Chicago Bears have signed free-agent WR Joshua Morgan (Redskins) to a one-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A.J. GreenApr 21 03:32p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green said he has added around six pounds this offseason, because he wants to be more physical as a way to beat coverage at the [ More ]

Michael VickApr 21 02:42p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith said he believes he will be the starting quarterback this upcoming season even though the team added QB Michael Vick this offseason. He [ More ]

Navorro BowmanApr 21 02:12p

The San Francisco 49ers plan to place LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) on the Physically Unable to Perform list when training camp begins, because he is not expected to be [ More ]

Eric FisherApr 21 02:02p

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (shoulder, hernia) underwent shoulder surgery and had a procedure to fix a sports hernia. He's currently rehabbing in Kansas City.

Tony CarterApr 21 01:22p

The Denver Broncos signed DT Mitch Unrein to his restricted free-agent tender Monday, April 21. CB Tony Carter, SS Duke Ihenacho and LB Brandon M. Marshall all signed their exclusive rights tenders.

Rolando McClainApr 21 01:02p

Baltimore Ravens LB Rolando McClain is retiring from the NFL again Monday, April 21. 'I gotta follow my heart. It ain't football. If football made me complete I would [ More ]

Tony RomoApr 21 12:42p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) will take part in the team's voluntary offseason program beginning Monday, April 21, according to a source. Players are allowed to lift weights, [ More ]

Marcus LattimoreApr 20 09:12p

San Francisco 49ers RB Marcus Lattimore (knee) is not expected to be restricted in any way when offseason workouts begin.

Michael EgnewApr 20 08:42p

The Miami Dolphins likely will add at least two more tight ends this offseason that will compete with TE Michael Egnew for a roster spot.

Armon BinnsApr 20 12:02a

Miami Dolphins WR Armon Binns is currently the team's No. 4 receiver, but the Dolphins have had discussions about WR Rishard Matthews replacing Binns at the spot, according to a source.

Tyrone CrawfordApr 20 12:02a

Dallas Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford (Achilles') is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, and he is expected to be a key piece to the defense this season.

M. Jones-DrewApr 20 12:02a

If healthy, Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden is expected to be the team's starting tailback with RB Maurice Jones-Drew as his backup.

Brian HartlineApr 20 12:02a

Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (knee) is expected to be ready for the start of mini camp, according to a source. He suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament in the 2013 regular season finale.

Terrelle PryorApr 19 01:02p

The Oakland Raiders will release QB Terrelle Pryor if they are not able to trade him by Monday, April 21.

LaMichael JamesApr 19 12:22p

The Kansas City Chiefs could consider pursuing San Francisco 49ers RB LaMichael James if he could become a slot receiver. The team likely would not have interest in James [ More ]

Matt HasselbeckApr 19 12:22p

Indianapolis Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck plans to retire after the 2014 season.

Asa JacksonApr 19 12:12p

Baltimore Ravens CBs Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson are expected to compete for the No. 3 cornerback job during training camp. If the team takes a cornerback in one [ More ]

Michael FordApr 19 11:32a

The Chicago Bears probably will select a running back in the later rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft to compete with RB Michael Ford for the No. 2 running [ More ]

Jordan PalmerApr 19 09:52a

The Chicago Bears could target a quarterback in the late rounds of the NFL Draft or in free agency to provide competition for backup QB Jordan Palmer.

Cam NewtonApr 19 09:32a

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (ankle) remains in a walking boot about a month after ankle surgery. The team is hopeful Newton will be ready to go for training camp.

Michael RobinsonApr 19 12:02a

The Seattle Seahawks have not tried to re-sign free-agent FB Michael Robinson this offseason.

Russell AllenApr 18 11:42p

The Jacksonville Jaguars released LB Russell Allen (concussion) after he failed a physical.

Kendrick LewisApr 18 08:32p

Houston Texans FS Kendrick Lewis and SS Chris D. Clemons are expected to compete for the starting free safety job during training camp.

Trent RichardsonApr 18 08:22p

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said it will be important for RB Trent Richardson to participate in all of the offseason workouts so he can get more comfortable [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group