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State of the Patriots | TE

Can anyone stop Patriots’ 1-2 punch at tight end?

Rob Gronkowski (87) and Martellus Bennett (83) are clearly the best among Patriots tight ends.File/Michael Dwyer/AP

Fourth in a series on the Patriots’ status at each position group heading into training camp.

Perhaps no team in history can match the Patriots’ 1-2 tight end punch of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett — a truly terrifying twosome for opponents.

Consider over the last two seasons they have combined for 297 catches for 3,655 yards and 32 touchdowns. Now they’re joining forces.

Last season, Rex Ryan joked he’d need to employ King Kong to cover Gronkowski. This season, the Bills coach might need to sign up Godzilla, too.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound Gronkowski is the gold standard at the position. He combines size, speed, strength, and super exuberance to make plays.


He gets off the line quickly — unless, of course, he’s blocking an opponent into submission — gets open and snags everything in his ridiculously large catching radius.

Gronkowski may not be the most fluid runner after the catch, but that hardly matters when he’s literally running over would-be tacklers.

Gronkowski’s noncommercial running mate (the commercial role is held by David Ortiz) will be the 6-6, 273-pound Bennett.

Another player with a physical presence, Bennett has soft hands and is tremendous with the ball in his hands. When he’s engaged and involved, he is a monster — just ask those along the Midway. He’s in the final year of his contract, so motivation should not be a problem.

A more svelte Michael Williams appeared set to battle for the third tight end spot until tearing his left ACL during minicamp. He’ll spend the season on injured reserve.

Seventh-year veteran Clay Harbor (6-3, 250) now has the inside track on the slot. He’ll battle A.J. Derby (who spent last year on IR) and rookie free agents Bryce Williams and Steven Scheu.

Harbor is athletic and versatile, has a decent set of hands, and surely opened some eyes with his performance against the Patriots last season, when he had three catches for 43 yards and a TD for the Jaguars. He also has special teams experience — always a plus.


Derby (6-5, 255) played quarterback until his final season at Arkansas. His rookie season was derailed quickly but being in the building for a season definitely gives him a leg up on Bryce Williams and Scheu.

Williams (6-6, 258) is athletic and versatile. He played fullback in college before settling in at tight end. He is very physical after the catch and will work hard to pick up yards after first contact.

Scheu (6-5, 245) played in the tough Southeastern Conference at Vanderbilt and had decent production (83 catches, 933 yards, 7 TDs).

Derby, Williams, and Scheu all have practice squad eligibility. It wouldn’t be a surprise if other candidates are brought in during the summer.

Up next: Offensive line.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.