This methodology may face its biggest test to date, as New England will be without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the foreseeable future after suffering a broken forearm in Sunday’s blowout win over the Colts.
With Gronkowski out of the lineup, a gaping hole opens up in blocking schemes, but most noticeably in the passing game. In the three seasons since Gronk has been in the league, he’s set records for tight ends and been a favorite target of Tom Brady. This season he’s hauled in 53 catches for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns — marking the third consecutive season Gronkowski’s reach double-digit scores, a new record for tight ends.
All that being said, New England is still 7-3 and making the trek to the Meadowlands to take on the rival Jets for a Turkey Day evening bonanza. In Gronkowski’s absence, the rest of the receiving corps will need to step up and take the reins as the top target for Brady.
But, who will it be? Will Wes Welker catch more drag routes across the middle and zip past defenders? Or will the return of Julian Edelman to the offensive weaponry set him apart from his companions? Might it be the new guy, Brandon Lloyd, whose debut with the Pats has been underwhelming — but could a big injury like this could get him more targets? And then what about Aaron Hernandez? Will Gronk’s setback prove to be the perfect time for the return of the second bash brother?