New England Patriots Links 1/04/12 - Hernandez Will Be The Difference Maker

Aaron Hernandez is healthier, and a much-improved player than he was last January.

Greg A. Bedard asserts the reason the Patriots will be tougher to defend this January is clearly Aaron Hernandez.

For his rookie season and most of 2011, Hernandez was part of the secondary group of weapons Tom Brady had at his disposal. But as the regular season finishes, Hernandez is on a par with Welker and Gronkowski. Hernandez, despite turning only 22 in November, is light-years ahead of where he was as the playoffs beckoned in 2010. He’ll be hard-pressed to ever be the complete tight end Gronkowski is, but he has matured into a well-rounded player.

And that looms as a very big development for the Patriots.

Now, he can do it all. Even Hernandez’s blocking has become an asset. Give a large amount of credit to tight ends coach Brian Ferentz for the job he’s done with both of the young tight ends - especially after valuable veteran Alge Crumpler departed.

Tom Brady is asked if he and his teammates are concerned that slow starts could be a fatal flaw in the playoffs.

"We’re always trying to play better. I think we come out of every game saying there’s things we didn’t do so well and there’s things we have to do better. I don’t think what’s in our mind is, 'We’re going to lose, we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose.' You don’t think about that. You think you’re going to win. You think you’re going to pull the game out. You have confidence that if you play for four quarters and you play hard and you make more plays than the other team, then at the end of the 60 minutes you’re going to win the game. Believe me, we all wish we were up 21-0 instead of down 21-0. But if we’re down 21-0 we still have confidence that we can come back and win the game.

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