Analysis  

 

Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez among league's top 10 duos

Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
Aaron Hernandez (left) and Rob Gronkowski combined to make 169 catches for 2,237 yards and 24 TDs in 2011.

Watching television, it's almost impossible to go 15 minutes without seeing a preview for the movie "The Avengers." The trailers all show various clips of the Marvel Comics superheroes joining forces. I still have yet to see the film, but it looks like I might be in the minority. ("Avengers" just finished No. 1 at the box office for the third straight weekend.)

What does this have to do with football? Well, it got me thinking ... Instead of just focusing on individual players, I should compile a list of the top duos in the NFL. So, here goes nothing: the five best offensive and defensive tandems in the league.

Offense

Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks
New York Giants WRs (two years together)

In my opinion, this is currently the top receiver duo in the NFL. Both guys are complete receivers with an outstanding mix of size, explosiveness, reliable hands and elusiveness after the catch. Last season, they combined for 2,728 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns.

Michael Roos and David Stewart
Tennessee Titans OTs (seven years together)

The Titans have several holes in their roster, but they are in good shape at offensive tackle. In the past three seasons, Tennessee ranked second, sixth and third in sacks allowed. Roos and Stewart are a large part of that success. This pair also helped pave the way for Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard season in 2009.

Ray Rice and Vonta Leach
Baltimore Ravens RBs (one year together)

This is the best RB/FB tandem in the NFL. Rice finished second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,364) last season while running behind the crushing lead blocks of Leach. Following the 2011 season, both players were named to the All-Pro team for the second time in their respective careers.

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Roddy White and Julio Jones
Atlanta Falcons WRs (one year together)

The Falcons paid dearly to move up in the draft to select Julio Jones. So far, it's hard to argue with the results. Jones posted 959 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging almost 18 yards per catch last season. And he did all of that damage despite only playing in 13 contests. Meanwhile, over the past two seasons, Roddy White has caught 215 balls.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
New England Patriots TEs (two years together)

What these two players have done in their brief careers is nothing short of amazing. Gronkowski has already established himself as the premier tight end in the entire league, while Hernandez is the best H-back to enter the NFL in a long time. Last season, they combined for 169 catches and 24 touchdowns. Those numbers are ridiculous!

Just missed the cut: Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers WRs; DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers RBs; Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers WRs; Arian Foster and Ben Tate, Houston Texans RBs; DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles WRs; Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys WRs.

Defense

NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis
San Francisco 49ers LBs (two years together)

The 49ers' defense is in great hands. These are arguably the two best inside linebackers in the entire league. They combined for 240 tackles last season and both guys were named to the All-Pro team.

Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul
New York Giants DEs (two years together)

This pair is lethal against both the pass and the run. Both guys also have the versatility to play outside and inside in the Giants' scheme. Pierre-Paul was dominant throughout the regular season, while Tuck put together a monster postseason.

Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs
Chicago Bears LBs (nine years together)

This is the longest-tenured duo on our list. Despite some tread on their tires, they're both still playing at an elite level. They each recorded more than 100 tackles last season and neither guy seems to have lost much range or explosiveness.

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Jason Babin and Trent Cole
Philadelphia Eagles DEs (two years together)

If you love an attacking brand of football, there is nothing prettier than watching these two guys crouch down in their four-point stances and explode off the line of scrimmage. They are both polished pass rushers and pursue the quarterback with a relentless passion. They combined for 29 sacks last season.

Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour
Oakland Raiders DTs (three years together)

In talking to coaches around the league, this is a duo that is often mentioned. They're both enormous, powerful and deceptively quick. They're very difficult to move off the ball in the run game and combined to collect 13.5 sacks last season.

Just missed the cut: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys OLBs; Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, Green Bay Packers CBs; Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts DEs/OLBs; James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers OLBs; Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins OLBs; Jared Allen and Brian Robison, Minnesota Vikings DEs; Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals DLs; Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, Detroit Lions DEs; Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, Seattle Seahawks CBs.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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