Last week was the first time that New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was really involved in the offense all season and he only collected one reception. The Patriots primarily used Gronkowski and fellow TE Martellus Bennett at blockers, but Bennett racked up over 100 yards receiving.
Needless to say, Gronkowski has to be excited for the return of QB Tom Brady and greater involvement in the passing game.
Still, the Patriots coaching staff is happy with the contributions from both Gronkowski and Bennett and believe they add a unique dynamic aspect to the offense.
“Those guys are both good blockers, so we're comfortable running behind them in really any situation,” head coach Bill Belichick said on Tuesday. “They're good at the point of attack, they're good on double-team blocks, good at blocking the force. That's always a tough position.
“I mean it's a tough position on a lot of levels but it's a tough position in terms of blocking because there are times that they're blocking safeties, guys that are good run players but quick and athletic and then there are times when they're blocking linebackers and then there are times when they're blocking defensive linemen, anywhere from the 260-270 pound defensive ends to occasionally some of the bigger five-techniques that push closer to 300.
“So there are a lot of different levels of power, athleticism, technique. Some of those blocks are in-line blocks, some of them are space blocks. Occasionally they have to pull and things like that. At times they're even involved in perimeter plays like flip-screens and those type of things where they're blocking in space against corners.
“So the variety and the match-ups that they have as blockers is pretty extensive. It's pretty difficult really to be able to match-up against all of those and execute them. But those two guys do a real good job of it. They're both long, have good strength, good feet, and they're both smart players that know how to use their leverage and understand where the play is going and how to use the proper technique to block it.”
In other words, Belichick thinks the two tight ends are good enough blockers to handle defensive tackles, defensive ends, linebackers, and safeties- pretty much every type of player that will cross their path on defense.
Gronkowski is regarded as the best blocking tight end in the NFL, but Bennett has actually stepped up his game while Gronkowski has been unable to perform.
Bennett “has earned a positive overall grade in every game this season,” according to Pro Football Focus, “and currently leads all NFL tight ends in overall grade, run blocking grade and pass blocking grade.”
So when Gronkowski returns to the field, the Patriots will have the two best blocking tight ends in the NFL, which allows the offense to be more multi-functional than ever before.
Both players can block in the running or passing game and both can run routes as receivers. They can flex literally anywhere in the formation and create a mismatch.
“[Bennett’s] really done a nice job of doing what we ask him to do,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Tuesday. “Marty is an unselfish guy. He's been out there every single day, practices hard. He's been a factor in the running game; he's been a factor in pass protection. He's done good things when he's gotten his opportunities in the pass game as a receiver. He's versatile. He plays an awful lot of snaps. He's been durable. He's tough, and he's unselfish.
“We're really happy with what he's done and look forward to kind of growing with him as we go through the season, but really appreciate his attitude and the contributions that he's made so far and look forward to trying to improve and get better as we go through the season.”
Now that it appears that Gronkowski is close to 100% and Brady is back under center, the Patriots two-tight end offense can really start to take over the league.