New England Patriots TE Martellus Bennett needs just 31 more yards to match his output from 2015 with the Chicago Bears. He’s on pace for the 2nd most yards in his career and needs just two more touchdowns to match his career-high.
Bennett has fit in nicely with the Patriots offense, serving as a replacement for TE Rob Gronkowski over the first quarter of the season, and then as a quality number two over the past four games. Bennett suffered an ankle injury in week 5, which has limited his production, but he’s still contributing as a depth receiver and as a high-level blocker.
Patriots QB Tom Brady thinks that Bennett has been able to add extra productivity to the offense- and that he might have a big role this week against the Seahawks.
“He’s done an incredible job,” Brady said on Wednesday when asked about Bennett by the Seahawks media. “To come in and perform the way that he has, he is a great player and a great teammate. I’ve really enjoyed my time with him. He’s done everything that everyone has asked him to do when he’s been out there.”
“It was really seeing what Martellus was able to do over the course of the time that he was out there [during the summer],” Brady added when speaking to the Patriots media. “Gronk wasn’t out there as much, but I think everybody developed a lot of confidence in his role and what he was capable of doing for us. It’s always challenging when a new player comes in and you’ve never really played with that guy, so just to see what he’s been able to do has been so much productivity to the team, and he’s added so much. It’s going to be a big week for him, so I’m glad he’s on our team.”
What does a “big week” mean for Bennett? Well, he posted 114 yards in week two and 3 touchdowns in week five. He’s averaged around 60% of the snaps since Gronkowski returned to full strength in week five. Will we see the Patriots unleash more of their two-tight end fronts?
Bennett is still listed on the injury report with an ankle problem, which is worth monitoring, but he should be close to healthy.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy who shows up to work every day ready to just do everything that he can to help the team,” Brady said. “Run game, pass game, pass protection, running routes, helping other guys get open, and once he catches the ball, he’s a dynamic playmaker. His run-after-catch is incredible. He’s 280 pounds and he’s just got great athleticism. He’s just been- I can’t say enough good things about him.”
The Seahawks defense is annually one of the best in the league, but they might be vulnerable to good tight ends. The Seahawks match up both their linebackers and safeties on tight ends and the productive tight ends have a blueprint co-authored by Gronkowski, Panthers TE Greg Olsen, and Chargers TE Antonio Gates.
- Seahawks LB in man coverage: think vertical, with go or hitch routes, like Gronkowski in the Super Bowl.
- Seahawks LB in zone coverage: attack the middle of the field, sit in the triangle between the linebackers and free safety.
- Seahawks CB in man coverage: think horizontal, running crossing routes if inline, or in/out patterns if on the sideline.
And that’s pretty much how to beat the Seahawks defense with tight ends. It’s obviously easier said than done, but it’s a proven way to win.
Gates picked up 96 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2014, Gronkowski collected 68 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, and Olsen averaged 108 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Seahawks in 2015. Other tight ends, like Bengals TE Tyler Eifert (90 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2015), have been productive using this plan.
These are the peers for a healthy Bennett and when you put both Gronkowski and Bennett on the field, you create mismatches.
The Seahawks have allowed 12 tight ends to post 50+ receiving yards over the past three seasons. Seattle is 4-7-1 in those games, with two of those wins against the lowly 49ers in 2015 and one against the Falcons this years thanks to a horrible blown call by the officials. The fourth win was against the Panthers in the divisional round of the 2014 playoffs.
Bennett and Gronkowski are both going to be big parts of the Patriots game plan against the Seahawks and they’ll have to produce if the Patriots are going to earn their 8th win.