Rob Gronkowski is one of the hardest tight ends in the game to cover as he presents a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
Too big and strong for defensive backs to handle while boasting superior athleticism for a linebacker to contain, teams struggle limiting him in the passing game. This year, the 6-6, 265-pound eight-year veteran has caught 29 passes for 452 yards (15.6 ypc) and four touchdowns.
While he isn't regarded in the same vein quite yet, the 22-year old Hunter Henry boasts similar problems for opposing defenses. The 6-5, 223-pounder has hauled in 21 passes for 301 yards (14.3 ypc) and a pair of scores on the year.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Gronkowski is a fan of the second-year Charger.
"He looks like a very solid tight end," he said. "He runs great routes, which is key. It's really good. He's really specific in his route detail, which gets him open a lot. He's a great young player."
Gronkowski's comments echo those of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who raved about the second-year tight end earlier in the day.
"Hunter's got really good receiving skills," he said. "He's really like a receiver. He's a very fluid athlete. He's got good speed and quickness. Good route running techniques. He's a hard guy to cover, and he does a real good job with the ball after the catch. He's got a lot of extra yards on his own breaking tackles. Cutting back and getting extra yards with his vision and run skills in space. He's a competitive blocker. Does a good job of using his blocking angles and finishing blocks. He's athletic. He plays on his feet. But in the passing game, he's hard to cover and he's good after the catch. He can make the tough, contested catches."
Henry isn't the only tight end to catch the Patriots' eye. The team also he has a ton of respect for Antonio Gates, the all-time touchdown leader at the position.
"I've always been a big fan of Gates," Gronkowski admitted. "It's always cool to be able to play against him. To see what he does, I've always watched film on him. I've always loved the way he runs his routes. I've always been a big fan of him."
"Gates has got a very deceptive style of route running," added Belichick. "He's big and he's athletic and he's got great hands, so he makes a lot of outstanding catches. But, he has a very deceptive and very patient style of route running, so he's kind of subtle and then explosive at coming out of the break or to get the ball at the right time. So, he's got that ability, so that really probably gives him a connection with any quarterback, especially one like (Philip) Rivers who's thrown to him for so long. Probably if you weren't working with him all the time, you might not have quite as much appreciation for what he does to get open."