Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham Are TE Clinic at Patriots Practice

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 7, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 27:  (L-R) Rob Gronkowski #87 and Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots react after Gronkowski caught a 24-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

What's better than seeing two of the best quarterbacks in the league on the practice field together?

How about three of the best tight ends in the league?

A reporter pointed out to New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt that there are three pretty good tight ends on the field. Vitt's response: "You think?"

Vitt was equally as humorous, but much less short, when asked about what these tight ends do well.

"They can run, they can catch, they can run routes, they can block, they can get to the edge and kill you, they can catch it outside the framework of their body, they're all good dancers, they're good cooks, and they love kids."

Besides the dancing, cooking and the love for kids, the tight ends put on a clinic of their other skills all day long.

Tight ends Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham all made their fair shares of plays on the day. They all saw a mix of coverages from cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers, but for the most part, it didn't matter.

Hernandez made arguably the catch of the day on a deep ball down the right sideline, making a one-handed grab after getting past Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick.

The "arguably" clause is in there because of a beautiful piece of route-running by Graham, who blew past Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower for a touchdown catch in red-zone drills, promptly dunking the football on the crossbar to celebrate.

It wasn't a perfect day for the tight ends. Gronkowski was flagged for an offensive pass-interference penalty, but he came back a moment later with a difficult touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.

Gronkowski intimated that there's something to be learned from watching a tight end like Graham.

"There's so many great tight ends in this league, basically on every team," said Gronkowski. "You're watching them, you're watching them get open. Jimmy Graham's a great tight end. Just watching him, what he does, how he gets open, you can always use other people's aspects of their game and bring them into your game to help you out."

New Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is credited with engineering the defensive game plan that held the record-setting 2007 Patriots offense to 14 points in Super Bowl XLII, but expressed that this time around, he's not sure his unit's up to the task.

"Yeah, I'm not sure we're ready, with where we are, to go against this offense right here," said Spagnuolo.

Perhaps he sold himself a bit short; the Patriots passing attack, on the whole, struggled on the day, with Brady going 7-for-16 with an interception. Still, Spagnuolo relayed some of the difficulties of defending the Patriots defense.

"We only have 11, and they have 11," said Spagnuolo. "You can only double so many guys, so you've got to pick your spots, pick and choose, and that's one advantage they have. I'm sure Tom, when he sees a double somewhere, he goes to the other guy, and he's got a guy who can beat a one-on-one."

But he, like Vitt, was enamored with the performance of the tight ends and the evolution of that position over the years.

"You see it all the way around the league," said Spagnuolo. "Especially if they can block, and they put those two guys in there, are they gonna get in formations to run the ball or throw it, spread 'em out? It's a challenge."

Drew Brees has an idea of what kind of defender could cover the tight ends.

"Well, they'd have to be really big, fast and athletic to cover those guys. Maybe the only guys that can cover them are each other."


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes obtained first-hand.