The Ravens may have watched enough film of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to last them a lifetime. But the scrutiny is well-deserved.
Gronkowski set a NFL record for tight ends with 1,327 yards, eclipsing the 1980 mark of 1,290 set by the San Diego Chargers' Kellen Winslow. He also established a new league standard with 17 touchdown catches, surpassing the record of 13 shared by the Chargers' Antonio Gates (2004) and the San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis (2009).
Hernandez wasn't exactly a wallflower, finishing the regular season with 910 yards and seven touchdowns. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 169 receptions – the most by a pair of tight ends in the same season in NFL history.
"There's probably not a better duo in the league," Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Hernandez, they use him everywhere. They use him as a running back. He runs a lot of vertical routes, runs a lot of underneath routes. And then Gronkowski, he's just a big, physical body who can run. You think he's 6-6, 265 [pounds] or whatever he is, but you watch him on film and he's running away from people. So it's a huge challenge for us. But you've just got to match up and play."
At 6-3 and 260 pounds, Johnson has the strength to match up with Gronkowski and the 6-1, 245-pound Hernandez. The defense could also go with inside linebackers Jameel McClain (6-1, 245) or Brendon Ayanbadejo (6-1, 225).
Strong safety Bernard Pollard (6-1, 224), who has the speed to keep pace with Gronkowski and Hernandez, said the key may lie in being physical with that duo.