Does Patriots signing of Mike Gesicki mean two-tight-end system is back up?


“I want you to put the word out there that we back up.” – Bill O’Brien.

The Patriots’ signing of former Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki would seem to indicate the long-yearned-for return of O’Brien’s two-tight-end offense that once took the league by storm could finally be upon us.

Well, in theory.

There’s no doubt what Gesicki can do from a pass-catching perspective. His back-to-back seasons of 700 of more receiving yards in 2020 and 2021 are better than anything either Hunter Henry or the recently departed Jonnu Smith have done in their careers. The Penn State product is essentially a big slot receiver – like a Dollar Store Travis Kelce – who can threaten defenses down the seams, out wide and in the red zone.

By all accounts, he should be an upgrade over Smith, who simply never quite fit in New England and was seemingly forced into a role as a more traditional blocking tight end that he wasn’t originally meant for.

But Gesicki’s skill set perhaps presents similar problems to those the Patriots faced with the Henry-Smith pairing.

Like Henry, Gesicki isn’t much of a blocker and doesn’t play much in-line. Miami didn’t really ask him to do either, letting him basically be the big receiver that he is. Henry has played more in a traditional role than Gesicki, but he’s not a great blocker in that role and also excels more when split out wide.

The great thing about the old two-tight end sets with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez was both players’ ability to be dynamic in any role they were asked, whether that meant lining up as a traditional “Y” tight end or moving around formations – even into the backfield at times. Both Gesicki and Henry can line up as receivers in multiple alignments, of course, but they’re slightly redundant in their skill sets (with Gesicki being the better receiver in theory).

That said, just because Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia couldn’t solve this problem doesn’t mean Bill O’Brien – the guy who designed this two-tight end offense – can’t figure it out.

Also, the addition of another veteran or a rookie from the 2023 draft class, like Darnell Washington or Sam LaPorta, might go a long way toward evening out those responsibilities in “12” personnel. In fact, that’s an argument that a talented rookie might even make Henry, who’s in the last year of his deal, expendable now that Gesicki is also here.

Again, adding Gesicki to the fold should only be a good thing for Mac Jones given the tight end’s ability to make contested catches and produce in the red zone especially. It will be interesting, though, to see how O’Brien deploys them and how the Patriots continue to add to the room as the season approaches.

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