Patriots TE Tim Wright coming on strong

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Visitors to the New England Patriots locker room might notice that one row of lockers has Rob Gronkowski on the far left, Tim Wright on the far right, with quarterback Tom Brady in the middle.

The setup is especially topical to pass along this week because the two-tight end offense was a big part of the team's most recent victory, with Wright breaking through with his best performance since joining the team Aug. 26 in the surprising Logan Mankins trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With Gronkowski and Wright each scoring a touchdown, it marked the first time since the 2012 season-opener that the Patriots had two tight ends score in a game.

"We complement each other well, we use our strengths to our advantage," Wright said. "He's a bigger guy (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) and more physical and I'm a little smaller (6-4, 235) but I'm quicker in certain aspects. It's a good counter for an offense to have both different types of tight ends on the field."

As Wright spoke those words Wednesday, drawing a huge media crowd around his locker, Gronkowski peeked over from the opposite side and seemed pleased that the spotlight was shining on someone other than him as he sneaked out the back door.

Gronkowski is nearing a full workload himself, but Wright is still much more of a part-time player as he continues to get up to speed in the system. He made the most of his 19 snaps on Sunday night (5 catches, 85 yards, touchdown), and had played 21, 8, 5 and 16 snaps in the first four weeks of the season.

What has stood out from this perspective is how opponents are deciding to match up against him. The Bengals used cornerback Leon Hall, and Wright gave him fits. Then on Wright's 17-yard touchdown, which came out of a 1 WR/3 TE grouping, he split two linebackers.

Wright acknowledged that he's seen "a mix" of matchups "but it's still early; I'm starting to get more involved in the offense. As the weeks go on, we'll see [how] defenses are trying to match up on me."

That matchup has been something Bills coach Doug Marrone and his staff have naturally discussed as well leading into Sunday's game against the Patriots (1 p.m. ET).

"He's athletic and you can get him the football vertically. He's really coming on strong," Marrone said. "He'll be a good challenge for us on how we want to match up and cover it."

While Wright's primary impact comes as a pass-catcher, he's also asked to block at times. It's been an adjustment for a player who was a receiver at Rutgers and only switched to tight end in 2013 as a rookie with the Buccaneers.

"Nobody works harder than Tim," coach Bill Belichick said. "He spends extra time in the classroom, on the field, works really hard. He does as much as he can do. Is he there yet? No, but I'd say he's gaining on it steadily."

With more gains, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will continue to integrate more multiple-tight end packages into the attack. The Patriots are 3-0 in games in which they've run at least 33 percent of their snaps with two or more tight ends.

Between Gronkowski, Wright and Michael Hoomanawanui (6-4, 260), the tight end position is once again a focal point.

"It gives us another component to the offense," Wright said. "We haven't used it much, but it gives us confidence knowing we can put two tight ends on the field, mix up the looks and give us an advantage from that standpoint."

Wright's breakthrough, of course, is a big part of that.