FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski showed some serious potential during his rookie season, and with the right type of preparation over the next few months, he could emerge as Pro Bowler in 2011.
Gronkowski was fourth on the team with 42 receptions and 546 yards, and he was tied for seventh in the NFL with 10 receiving touchdowns in the regular season. The 21-year-old was dominant in the red zone with his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame that allowed him to box out any defender who tried to shield him.
With more experience, especially after missing his last season at Arizona due to back surgery, Gronkowski has the makings of a breakout second season. Since he’s got the physical tools to be great, he’s got to study up on the mental part of the game — in its most simplistic form, that means staying on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady when it comes to attacking defenses — to take that next step in his development.
“Basically, learn from any other offseasons, what got me better and everything,” Gronkowski said about his plan for the offseason. “I’ll sit down and think what I’ve got to do this coming week on how to get better on everything.”
Gronkowski’s growth was more evident during the second half of the season. In his first seven games, he had 10 catches for 101 yards and three touchdowns, and he was used mostly in blocking situations while Brady relied more heavily upon rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez in the passing game.
As the season went on, though, Gronkowski became the better target. In his last 10 games, including the playoff loss to the Jets, Gronkowski amassed 36 receptions, 510 yards and seven touchdowns.
He also acquired some playoff experience that should be beneficial down the line, and it’s yet another reason to expect a more mature player in his second season.
“The intensity is a lot higher,” Gronkowski said of the playoffs. “The fans were a lot more into it, a lot louder. There was just a lot more intensity. The postseason, of course, is a one-game season every single week. You can feel the sense out there that it’s a lot more hyped up, a lot more intense from the fans’ and the players’ stance.”