Gronkowski helps Pats do damage in the middle

Gronkowski helps Pats do damage in the middle
November 7, 2013, 12:15 pm
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FOXBORO -- The return of Rob Gronkowski is having a trickle-down effect on the Patriots offense.
Either a defense allocates extra attention to him, which frees up other players for 1-on-1 coverage, or a defense tries to cover Gronkowski 1-on-1 and loses that matchup based on either size or athleticism.
One of the areas it seems to be bearing fruit is in the middle of the field. Whether it's Gronkowski or others (Danny Amendola on two occasions this past Sunday), patterns that utilize the area between the numbers are starting to pay bigger dividends. The reason? You have to allocate a player to cover Gronkowski and another one further downfield to act as support.
“When you got a guy his size, he’s just hard to cover,” said tight ends coach George Godsey. “Usually those bodies that are just coming down from a safety standpoint and from a range standpoint aren’t able to cover that. And Rob’s athletic ability along with that size, it’s a big factor inside, and I think that’s an area he’s done a lot of damage in during his career. If we can find that matchup, we’re going to take it.”
I asked Godsey how close Gronkowski is to his former self.
“It’s the third game that he’s got back in,” Godsey pointed out. “He took a lot of snaps the first week, a little bit less the second and right back to where he was -- about 50 snaps -- this past week. He’s working hard. And that’s all Rob does. He always works hard. If he can keep improving in the run game and pass game, he’ll get to where he we want him to be.”
Godsey, who’s been with the Patriots since 2011, has seen his tight end corps drastically altered this year.
From the injury to Gronkowski to the release of Aaron Hernandez to the health woes of Jake Ballard to losing Zach Sudfeld, it’s been an ever-changing spot which -- ironically -- was the one the Patriots seemed to have figured out for the long haul at this time last season.
Godsey, a standout college quarterback at Georgia Tech, said he’s on the right wavelength with Gronkowski.
“Rob and I have a great relationship,” he pointed out. “His communication with me is always good. This past week, going in from a game-plan standpoint, through practice and up to the game, we executed it the way we really wanted to.”
Coming out of the bye, there will no doubt be even bigger roles for Gronkowski -- and Godsey -- to manage.