Archive for the ‘Rob Gronkowski’ Category

After only a handful of snaps, Rob Gronkowski’s forearm snapped — again. He was done for the game against the Texans, and four days later, done for the year after being put on injured reserve.

Typically, when a star tight end goes out due to injury, it’s a crushing blow to his team’s offense because of the sheer amount of production that must be replaced. But that’s not the case with the Patriots, who are the modern day masters at adjusting on the fly and working with the pieces they have on the field.

The offense has spread the football around more to the running backs in the absence of Gronkowski, who missed five games in the regular season (weeks 12-16), while also replying more heavily on H-back Aaron Hernandez to pick up the slack.

Hernandez’s role in the offense has been affected not only by an increase in targets, but in his alignments as well. With Gronkowski on the field, the two tight ends are part of what I like to call a master formation. What this means is that the two tight ends are versatile enough to allow the Patriots to stay with one personnel grouping and run all sorts of concepts. At times, they’re able to run the ball effectively, as they can to pass it with these formations because of how well-rounded of an athlete Gronkowski is.

He is able to line up as a traditional tight end — in football parlance, “Y” is the given name — at the end of the formation and block defensive ends and linebackers like an offensive tackle due to his quick feet and hulking strength. And from the same alignment, he can threaten defensive backs down the seam with above-average speed and great size, which are a dangerous combination, and they’re attributes that create mismatches for defenses.

With Gronkowski in the game, Hernandez is given more freedom as a receiver because he is able to line up all over the formation and be a mismatch against smaller defensive backs or slower linebackers. Frequently, he’ll line up detached from the formation in a flex alignment (generally a three to four-yard split from LOS), or at times, in the backfield where the Patriots know he’ll be facing man coverage from an inside linebacker, who tends to be one of the slower pass defenders.

Moreover, the combination (12 personnel) is very troublesome for defenses because it forces them to either play with their base defense, which leads to them getting beat in the passing game, or go to their sub-packages, which leads them to getting beat in the running game. And when worst comes to worst, they try to go to those sub-packages and the Patriots simply go to their no-huddle offense to eliminate substitutions.

But with Gronkowski out, the master formation is different.

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Well, at least he’s creative. But I guess we’ve always known that about Rob Gronkowski, the medical mastermind who pioneered the scooter-aided rehab.

It took about five minutes after Gronk’s injury Sunday night for the verbal arrows to be launched at Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The shooters surmised that Billy mishandled his stud tight end’s injury and rehab, re-inserting him into a game far too soon. There were even some comparisons made to the Robert Griffin III situation that climaxed a week earlier, which was ridiculous.

But we can put all of that to rest now, because Tom Curran from CSN New England has…good news?

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That cold sensation you’re feeling is the thick, smothering damper being placed on this (likely) Patriots win. There’s now maybe suddenly some hope for the Ravens next weekend, assuming New England holds on to their 18-point lead over the final six minutes.

There’s so much hurt here, but also solace in the fact that this Patriots team played a significant chunk of the season without Rob Gronkowski, and there’s plenty of depth capable of stepping up in his absence.

Gronk aggravated his elbow injury that cost him five games this year early in the first quarter when he fell awkwardly, and he’ll need more surgery.

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UPDATE (3:10 p.m. ET): Annnd now it’s official. Gronk is active.

This is notable, which is why I’m noting it, but at the end of the Patriots-Dolphins game today we’ll likely see Rob Gronkowski as a meager footnote. Regardless, the Gronk will play today after receiving clearance from team doctors, a status that was first reported yesterday, and confirmed this morning by NFL Network’s Albert Breer.

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I’ve been busy for the last hour or so trying to justify my fantasy, um, fantasy of Tim Tebow becoming a thriving member of the Buffalo Bills, if such a thing exists. So, let’s catch up quickly on the most important yet still least surprising injury news of the day (so far).

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We’re saying there’s a chance.

On Wednesday NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported that Rob Gronkowski — he of the lust for Tim Tebow’s virginity — wants to return to the field, and return soon. Then predictably another report followed from Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, who said that Gronk will attempt to practice at some point this week.

The time is now, friends. Gronkowski was on the field today and participating in practice, although surely in a limited capacity. He won’t play this week against the 49ers, bringing his missed games total to four after he underwent surgery on his broken arm on Nov. 19. Quite unbelievably, Gronkowski is still the fantasy points leader among tight ends despite his missed time. He’s been stuck at 129 points, but Tony Gonzalez remains behind him and in second at 121.

That’s just how ridiculous Gronkowski was prior to his injury. It came when he had scored five touchdowns over four games, which also led to three games with more than 15 fantasy points over that stretch. Now there’s a chance Gronkowski owners could have him back for championship week when the Patriots have an inviting matchup against Jacksonville and their 24th-ranked pass defense.

Of course Gronk could be eased back in, as with the division clinched the need to risk further injury is minimized somewhat. But hey, Bill Belichick is still the head coach of the New England Patriots, and his stud tight end suffered this injury while blocking during an extra point attempt in a 59-24 game. Also, the Pats may indeed be solidly in the post-season dance, but even if they lose to the Niners this weekend both home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye remain in play.

The Patriots will be center of attention for the second week in a row, this time welcoming San Francisco to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

A person like Gronk — an overly excitable frat ‘boi’ and amazing athlete — craves the spotlight. According to Albert Breer, Gronkowski has told friends he wants to come back during this two-game stretch of prime-time games. He’s already missed one, but Sunday remains a possibility.

After the 49ers, the Pats end the season against Jacksonville and Miami — no reason to rush him back for those games. It remains highly doubtful Gronk plays on Sunday night, but his owners should keep an eye on developments out of Boston.