For the last week-plus, people have been asking why the Patriots would be willing to give up on Randy Moss and dump their biggest playmaker in a season in which they still have a good chance at making a deep playoff run.
Other than the apparent issues with Moss becoming disruptive in the locker room and the report that Moss and Tom Brady got into an argument where they made fun of each other's facial hair/girly hair (I guess Moss and Justin Bieber had something in common), there might be another reason why the Pats might have been willing to ship Moss to the Vikings.
That reason: The development of rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The former Florida star, who the Patriots selected in the fourth round of this year's draft, has gotten off to a quick start in his pro career, making 18 grabs for 240 yards through New England's first four games.
At 6-1, 245 pounds, Hernandez is built like a tight end, but has the athleticism of a wide receiver, which allows the Patriots to utilize the rookie in a number of roles out of different formations.
"They are figuring him out a little bit and realizing what they can do with him," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "And, he's done a great job. He's a vertical threat. He's a crossing-route threat. He can run all the underneath routes that they run with Wes Welker - actually, that's how athletic he is. He's kind of a new dimension for them.
"And he's a guy we're figuring out exactly where he fits. We assume after the [Patriots'] bye week there will be some new wrinkles in there for him."
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had some high praise for Hernandez, comparing the rookie to Jets tight end Dustin Keller, an emerging playmaker who has the second-most touchdowns in the NFL among tight ends this season.
"He's a Keller-type football player," Mattison said. "It's the same mold where you have a guy that probably has some wide receiver pass-catching and route-running skills, but he has the size of a tight end. He's a tremendous athlete. He's very gifted once he catches the ball, and he's very gifted getting open. And he's been a big plus for them."
Hernandez isn't the Pats' lone tight end weapon; they actually have two other quality tight ends, which also allows them flexibility in the formations they can utilize and the plays they can call.
Behind Hernandez, the Patriots have another promising rookie in second-round pick Rob Gronkowski, who has two touchdown catches on the season. They also can line up veteran Alge Crumpler, a four-time Pro Bowler, who, at 6-2, 275 pounds, gives New England a lot of beef along the line.
People will talk about how with Moss gone, second-year wide receiver Brandon Tate will have a chance to play a much bigger role in the offense, and that's the case. But with Hernandez, Gronkowski and Crumpler, the Pats' tight ends might be just as important in picking up the offensive slack now that Moss is in Minnesota.