Neil's NFL Daily: June 27, 2013
With Aaron Hernandez arrested yesterday the football world went mad with news about the ex-Patriots tight end, so you may well think I’ll steer clear today on the basis everything has been said. Oh no! I’m up for the challenge of delivering a whole raft of new, unique information about him, and more particularly what it means to New England in typical PFF style.
No details about handcuffs, attorneys, or trials, just all the football information you simply can’t get anywhere else.
Thursday, June 27th
Where Hernandez Lined Up
The table below shows the balance of positions Hernandez played compared with other, similar players. As can be seen, he was completely multifaceted for New England last year. As a side-bar, this is probably why the Titans decided not to try and franchise Jared Cook.
However, it’s one thing to line up as a wide receiver, it’s another to be considered one. Perhaps the best indication of a player’s role is to see how the defense responds to them, and the table at right shows very clearly the effect Hernandez had.
I’ve chosen to look at “12” personnel (a two wide receiver, one back, two tight end formation) and the difference that Hernandez makes is stark. On 71% of occasions the opposition chose to play him as a wide receiver by deploying at least nickel (or sometimes more defensive backs), but when he wasn’t the other TE for the Patriots that dropped to only 37%.
Detroit with Tony Scheffler is the only team to be accorded this response more frequently and then, after New England it’s a big drop to San Diego (with Antonio Gates) and New Orleans (with Jimmy Graham).
On yet another side-bar, this is why the Titans missed a trick by not franchising Jared Cook as a tight end.
Aaron Hernandez gave the Patriots exactly what they wanted — the flexibility to use 12 personnel and have Hernandez considered more often than not as a wide receiver. Trying to cover someone of that size in the slot though presents difficulties, as does having to also cope with the run with one less linebacker. The combination with Rob Gronkowski, given Gronk’s ability as a blocker (one of the few receiving tight ends still able to in-line block effectively), gave the defense a dilemma — play with an extra LB and watch your third man up struggle to stay with either Gronkowski or Hernandez, or go nickel and allow the Patriots to run while also having your slot corner one-on-one with a freak athlete.
So far Brady will no longer be throwing to Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, and Deion Branch, together with Hernandez (five of his Top 7 receivers). That’s 77% of receptions from last year gone, and 74% of yards.
Who knows, maybe Tim Tebow will get a longer look after all.
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