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Covering two tight ends is no simple task.
Defensive personnel is dictated by the offense when two tight ends are in the huddle.
Does the opposing defensive coordinator opt for an extra defensive back? Or does the coach stick with three or four linebackers?
Either way, the coverage is left vulnerable.
If the defense guards the tight ends with linebackers, speed is sacrificed for size. If the defense guards the tight ends with defensive backs, size is sacrificed for speed.
Against the 6'6", 265-pound Rob Gronkowski, linebackers don't have the lateral movement, or the coverage skills to prevent a reception. On the same token, no cornerback's agility can make up for a significant height disadvantage.
Against the 6'2", 250-pound Aaron Hernandez, linebackers are of similar size but struggle to stay in stride with the ex-Florida Gator. At his college pro day two years ago, Hernandez ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, courtesy of Walterfootball.com. Most cornerbacks run a similar 40-time, which gives the flex receiver a slight edge. He's tough to locate as he lines up in the backfield, on the line or in the slot.
Thus far, no clear-cut answer has been devised to stop New England's tight ends. There's no reason to believe 2012 will be any different.