FOXBORO, Mass. — With Rob Gronkowski nursing a chest injury that has kept him out of two consecutive practices, fellow New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett figures to receive more snaps and targets thrown his way Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Bennett doesn’t see what the big deal is.
“It’s not different than what I’ve been doing my whole career,” Bennett said. “It’s just another game for me.”
Bennett played 94.4 percent of snaps in the Patriots’ first four weeks of the season, but he has played just 61.2 percent in Week 5 and beyond. Bennett injured his ankle in Week 5, and Rob Gronkowski ramped up his participation in the offense that week against the Cleveland Browns.
Bennett likely will see his snap percentage head back up to the 94-percent range against the 49ers. So there likely will be a change for Bennett. He continued to shrug it off.
“I’ve started the majority of my career, so starting a football game is just football,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t matter how I’m played or what I play, it’s just the same thing.”
Bennett has 38 catches on 47 targets for 504 yards and four touchdowns this season. He has gone over 100 yards three times this season, including in Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Bennett is third among NFL tight ends in catch rate at 80.9 percent, and he’s second among Patriots receivers with at least 20 targets, trailing Danny Amendola, with 81 percent. Needless to say, acquiring Bennett has been a success for the Patriots’ offense.
Adding Bennett to the Patriots’ roster via trade this offseason was valuable for multiple reasons. He allowed New England to bring back the two-tight end set, added more unpredictability because of his blocking and is a valuable reserve who can start when Gronkowski suffers an injury, which is a safe bet each season.
The Patriots likely won’t run many two-tight end sets this weekend if it’s only Bennett and Matt Lengel at the position. But the team won’t see a dramatic drop-off for when it runs one-tight end sets, thanks to Bennett’s talent and versatility.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images