After signing free agent John Carlson to a lucrative contract this offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of tight ends (along with 2011 second round draft pick Kyle Rudolph) who project to be a focal point of their offense.
Given the success of the tight ends in the Patriots offense in 2011, and the fact that the NFL has long resembled a copycat institution, it’s no surprise that Rudolph has spent time studying extensive clips of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ star duo.
In fact, Rudolph (a Gronkowski-ian 6-foot-6, 258 pounds) hopes to incorporate aspects of the Patriots’ pair into the Vikings offense this season.
"If we can take both of those aspects of their game and implement it to what we're doing here, we have a chance to be successful,” he said. (Quote via the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
Carlson, who collected 55 catches as a rookie in 2008, is an athletic tight end who can be moved around the formation, something that Hernandez regularly does in New England.
It’s not the first time that we’ve heard teams discuss the possibility of replicating the Patriots’ offensive model and installing a steady diet of two tight end sets, and several teams made investments this offseason that suggest they’re ready to try the same.
The Indianapolis Colts, for example, drafted a tight end in both the second and third rounds to help build a supporting cast for top pick Andrew Luck.
The decision by teams to mirror the Patriots two tight end model makes sense, as we saw the mismatch problems created in 2011. However, they also identified two uniquely talented players in Gronkowski and Hernandez, making it hard to believe that many offenses will yield the same production from their tight ends that the Patriots received last season.