New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has not played up to his lofty standards thus far in 2018. That’s not to say that he’s been bad, as he’s put up a respectable 29 receptions for 448 yards and a touchdown in seven games. However, this is a far stretch from the usual Rob Gronkowski production. The big tight end has been limited by injuries and has become something of an afterthought after missing three of the past four games.
However, nobody should be overlooking Gronkowski for the final stretch of the season. The stars are aligning for Gronkowski to return to his dominant form for the rest of the year and into the playoffs. While he may not look like 2011 Gronkowski, the nine-year NFL veteran still has the ability to take over games.
Rob Gronkowski Poised For A Strong Finish
Despite being on the injury report for the majority of the season, Gronkowski has been effective when on the field. While he hasn’t found the endzone that often, he’s still averaging a respectable four receptions for 60 yards per game. Considering he also spends a decent chunk of snaps as a blocker, this production is pretty solid.
What’s most impressive is that Gronkowski put up all that production despite playing through ankle and back injuries. Gronkowski’s ankle issue first appeared after Week One and his back issue surfaced after a Week Six game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s played hurt all season and he’s still played like a borderline top-10 tight end.
Given this much time to rest, Gronkowski should be at or near 100% for the rest of the season. The Patriots had a bye in Week 11, and Gronkowski sat out three of the previous four games. The back and ankle injuries weren’t supposed to be long-term, so the big tight end should be ready to roll for the remainder of the season.
The question is whether or not the elite Gronkowski still exists. Gronkowski’s body has been through hell and back ever since entering the league. Since 2010, Gronkowski suffered multiple back injuries, ankle injuries, concussions, a broken arm, and a torn ACL, just to name a few things.
There’s only so much punishment the body can take, so it’s reasonable to wonder if Gronkowski can bounce back. However, based on the film from this season, it’s safe to assume that Gronkowski still has something left in his tank.
Gronkowski’s Not Done Yet
Gronkowski has only been fully healthy for one game this season, and that was back in Week One against the Houston Texans. The big tight end looked as good as ever, recording seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. He dominated double coverage, won with physicality, and looked like the same unstoppable force everyone was used to. However, he also suffered his ankle injury right after that, leading to his underwhelming performances the rest of the way.
Even when injured, Gronkowski has still shown the ability that made him such a nightmare for opposing defenses. Back in Week Six against the Chiefs, Gronkowski recorded three receptions for 97 yards. Two of his three receptions came in the biggest moments and were vintage Gronkowski. On the second-to-last drive of the game, Gronkowski recorded a massive 42-yard catch, tossing aside a safety and setting up the Patriots for a touchdown. On the final drive, Gronkowski caught the game-clinching 39-yard reception to set the Patriots in field goal position.
Gronkowski’s unremarkable outings are likely due to playing when he should have been resting. Throughout the off-season, Gronkowski was in the middle of a highly-publicized contract dispute with the Patriots. After months of negotiating, Gronkowski and New England eventually settled upon an incentive-laden deal. Gronkowski could earn upwards of 3.3 million if he exceeded his 2017 totals in touchdowns, yardage, receptions, or snap percentage.
Gronkowski clearly had every reason to try to play if his body would allow it, so he put himself out there hoping to reach those contract milestones. Once it became clear he wouldn’t reach said marks, Gronkowski sat out and began resting for the final stretch. With his body now fully rested, Gronkowski should go back to looking like his Week One self.
Last Word on Rob Gronkowski After the Bye Week
Rob Gronkowski had a rough start to the year, but he’s in position to put his early-season struggles behind him. Finally healthy and rested, the big tight end should go back to his dominant ways, starting in Week 12 against the New York Jets.
Gronkowski has shown flashes of brilliance while playing hurt and proved back in Week One that he’s still as good as ever when healthy. The ankle and back injuries won’t require surgery and should have healed up with time. In theory, he should be as healthy as he’s been all season, which is bad news for opposing defenses.
Gronkowski has been hurt in the past, but it’s never stopped him from coming back and being a top tight end in the league. This should be no different. Look for the Patriots offense to get a huge boost from their superstar tight end throughout the second half of the season and into the postseason.
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