Eric Karabell’s Week 13 watch list includes Rob Gronkowski’s intriguing position and his thriving team, each in search of aid
The strength of the Patriots’ offense, especially over the past decade under the on-again, off-again stewardship of Josh McDaniels, has been its ability to change its shape. Having Tom Brady helps, of course, but we saw how effective the offense could be during the first three weeks of the season, with Garoppolo at quarterback and Gronkowski either out or a shell of his usual self. The Patriots have managed to transition from a spread attack with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to the two-tight-end sets of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to an offense that incorporates both. They’ve overcome subpar offensive lines and managed to get the most out of players other teams weren’t interested in, such as Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis and Martellus Bennett.
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Bennett looms large in how the Patriots will handle the Gronkowski mess. The goal for this year was to build an offense around the twin terrors of Gronkowski and Bennett, who would be able to stay on the field and dictate mismatches regardless of the defense’s personnel choices. Injuries have prevented them from ever really pulling that off. By the time Gronkowski made it back from his hamstring injury, Bennett got hurt, suffering an ankle injury in a three-touchdown performance over the Browns.
What’s next for Gronk?
Gilbert Perreault Elite Jersey This is the thorniest question of them all, and the one that is toughest to answer. Gronkowski has made critical decisions in his professional career with his back in mind. In 2009, Gronkowski missed his junior season at Arizona and underwent his first back surgery. He subsequently decided to go pro instead of returning to school to rebuild his stock, which almost never happens. Organizations passed on Gronkowski out of concerns about his back and the missing year of tape, which is how a Hall of Fame tight end gets taken 17 picks after Tim Tebow and falls to the Patriots in the second round.
While the tight end emerged as a star and was mostly injury-free before suffering a high ankle sprain during the 2011 playoffs, it became clear that Gronk (or his representation) was concerned about his long-term ability to stay on the field. It’s hard to otherwise explain the deal he chose to sign before the 2012 season, just two years after entering the league. While reports at the time suggested that the six-year, $54 million deal was the biggest contract ever handed out to a tight end, the structure was incredibly team-friendly and contained just $12.9 million in guaranteed money.