, Salem, MA


February 2, 2012

A look at key New England Patriots


Rob Gronkowski, TE (87), 6-6, 265, 2nd season, Arizona

Record-setting tight end and All-Pro ... Combination of size and strength overwhelms defenders ... Battling left ankle injury sustained in AFC title game, but came back to finish that game ... Had record for TE of 1,327 yards receiving, scored 17 TDs on passes, also an NFL mark, and also ran for a TD ... Giants will try to double-team him at times with DB and LB or two DBs.

Aaron Hernandez, TE (81), 6-1, 245, 2nd season, Florida

Recently has lined up as a running back in some formations, especially out of no-huddle ... Broke 43-yard run against Denver in divisional playoff contest ... Very effective in open space as receiver, made 79 catches for 910 yards and seven TDs ... If not for Gronkowski, he might be an All-Pro.

Matt Light, LT (72), 6-4, 305, 11th season, Purdue

Has rebounded from some poor games in recent years to have solid season ... Second-round pick in 2001, has started virtually entire career ... Steady pass protector when on his game, and has been on it this season ... Only remaining Patriot from 2001 draft.

Logan Mankins, LG (70), 6-4, 310, 7th season, Fresno State

After some nastiness in contract negotiations, Mankins signed six-year deal after lockout and has played at high level all season ... Powerful run blocker and crafty in pass protection ... A team leader ... Was first-round pick in 2005 and is only remaining draftee from that year on roster.

Dan Connolly, C (63), 6-4, 313, 6th season, Southeast Missouri State

Acquired in 2008 as free agent from Jacksonville, has been backup much of career ... Was expected to be weak link in line, but has been solid ... Missed four starts with injuries, but snapped in both postseason games.

Brian Waters, RG (54), 6-3, 320, 12th season, North Texas

One of NFL's best for last decade in Kansas City, signed as free agent with Patriots after lockout ... Terrific run blocker, steady in pass protection, good leader, made Pro Bowl ... Never won a playoff game before this postseason ... Began career in college as tight end.

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