KANSAS CITY, Mo. – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows tight ends.
Belichick has one of the NFL’s best in two-time Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. And it was Belichick’s two-tight end sets featuring Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from 2010-12 that presented a blueprint for the league to emulate.
Of course, the Chiefs have an emerging duo in veteran Anthony Fasano and second-year pro Travis Kelce, both of whom have combined for 257 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 18 catches.
And Belichick complimented the pair during Wednesday morning’s conference call with Chiefs beat writers.
“It’s a tough matchup on those guys with a linebacker,” Belichick said. “Their speed and athleticism and for DBs (defensive backs) to handle their size, so those are tough guys to cover.”
Kelce currently ranks second on the Chiefs in receptions (10), targets (15) and yards per catch (16.6), while leading the team in yards receiving (166).
Belichick said the 6-7, 260-pound Kelce is a “dynamic player,” pointing out some of Kelce’s skillset.
“He’s big,” Belichick said. “He’s fast; he’s got very good ball skills, good ability to separate on his routes. He’s a good player and a tough matchup.”
That description sounds a lot like the 6-6, 265-pound athletic Gronkowski, but the Patriots coach stopped short of comparing the players.
“Two different players on two different teams,” Belichick said, “but I’ve been really impressed watching Kelce play.”
Gronkowski agreed with his head coach.
“He’s definitely caught my eye,” Gronkowski said of Kelce during Wednesday afternoon’s conference call. “He’s a good player. He’s got good size, good speed and good hands from what I’ve seen of him so far.”
Meanwhile, the Patriots are familiar with Fasano, who spent five seasons with New England’s AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins (2008-12), before signing a free-agent deal with the Chiefs in 2013.
The 6-4, 255-pound Fasano ranks third on the Chiefs in receptions (8), targets (12) and yards receiving (91), while ranking fourth in yards per catch (11.4) entering Week 4.
“Anthony does a real good job for them,” Belichick said. “We played against him a lot going back to his days in Miami and he’s always been a problem.”
From dealing with Fasano and Kelce, Belichick understands what the Chiefs offer against the Patriots on Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs can also incorporate Demetrius Harris, who measures 6-7, 256-pound, in the mix.
The Patriots head coach appreciates the challenge of defending the Chiefs’ tight ends, but he appeared to have special respect for Kelce.
“Travis Kelce has really come into his own,” Belichick said. “He’s a hard guy to deal with.”
NOTES: Chiefs fans will attempt to regain the world record for loudest outdoor stadium on Monday night, but the Patriots are prepared … “It’s certainly challenging for us,” Belichick said. “We’ve played in other places and dealt with noise on a regular basis as well, so we just have to have better execution on Monday night” … The Chiefs may have insight on how to defend Gronkowski after signing 6-8, 277-pound tight end Justin Jones to the practice squad on Sept. 16 … Jones entered the league in May out of East Carolina as an undrafted free agent with the Patriots before being released after training camp.