Super Bowl 2012, Key Matchup: How Will Giants Cover New England Tight Ends?

Rob Gronkowski (87) of the New England Patriots answers questions from the media during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

How will the New York Giants try to handle the New England Patriots tremendous duo of tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, during the 2012 Super Bowl on Sunday in Indianapolis?

This is one of the biggest dilemmas facing Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, and it will be very interesting to see how he chooses to try and accomplish it. More concerning to Giants fans isn't how the Giants get it done, but that they get it done.

Gronkowski had a record-setting season for New England as he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a tight-end record of 17 touchdowns. His health has been a major topic all week as he showed up in Indianapolis wearing a walking boot on his injured left ankle. Gronkowski suffered what has been termed a high ankle sprain during the AFC Championship Game victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Gronkowski was not wearing the walking boot during Tuesday's Media Day festivities, and said he is taking his recovery "day-by-day."

The Patriots also have Aaron Hernandez, who had 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season.

When the teams met earlier this season (a 24-20 New York victory) Gronkowski had his way with the Giants, hauling in eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, while Hernandez had four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown.

The Giants' options in trying to cover Gronkowski and Hernandez might be limited somewhat by the fact that rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams has been wearing a walking boot of his own, and his status for Sunday is unknown.

Undoubtedly, the Giants will use combinations of coverages involving their linebackers and safeties. They will hope mostly, however, that their pass rush negates the Patriots big-play passing attack. Maybe privately they will also hope that Gronkowski's ability to manuever downfield and get open is hampered by the ankle injury.

The Giants have struggled at times covering tight ends, and gave up a pair of long touchdowns to San Francisco's Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game. SI.com's Chris Burke took an in-depth look at the Giants' struggles in covering Davis, how the Patriots might try to exploit that, and what the Giants might do about it. It's a better X and O look at the matchup than anything I can do, and it offers a great look at the problems the Giants face.

It will be fascinating on Sunday to watch the chess match between the Giants defense and the Patriots offense when it comes to covering Gronkowski and Hernandez. If the Giants can limit the damage these two cause it becomes much more difficult for New England to create big plays in its passing game.

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