3 Reasons New England Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski Isn't Duplicating 2011 Success

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIOctober 11, 2012

3 Reasons New England Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski Isn't Duplicating 2011 Success

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    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn't met expectations during the 2012 season.

    A year after ranking sixth in the league with 1,327 yards receiving, Gronkowski only has 295 yards through five games. Gronkowski only has one game with more than 100 yards receiving, and has 35- and 21-yard totals in two of the last three games.

    While his downgraded performance is a surprise to many, the signs are there as to why he's struggled this year.

    Here are three reasons why Gronkowski isn't duplicating his success from a year ago.

Aaron Hernandez Injury

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    The Patriots thrive on the two tight end set, which allows Tom Brady to throw all over the field.

    Since Aaron Hernandez went down in Week 2, things haven't been the same for Gronkowski. Sure, he had 104 yards receiving in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. However, that was the Bills, a team that ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass.

    Hernandez's absence has allowed teams to key in on Gronkowski in the middle. This has also forced the Patriots to move towards a three-receiver set.

    It's no secret that Gronkowski's 2011 success was due to having another good tight end on the field. With no other guy to help clog the middle of the field, Gronkowski has to work more than he did last year to get open.

Something's Wrong with QB-TE Combination

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    Something is wrong in the passing combination between Brady and Gronkowski.

    Both parties have to take blame for this, as either Brady is missing Gronkowski or the big tight end is just not hitting his spots.

    Gronkowski has been targeted 34 times this year (6.8 per game), catching 23 of those targets. Last year, Gronkowski was targeted 124 times (7.75 per game), catching 90.

    While the targets are down one per game, that still doesn't make up the difference in receiving yards. One reception isn't going to make up the yards he's missing out on.

    It's a combination Brady just missing his tight end or Gronkowski not getting to his spot to receive the pass. Both players take blame in his paltry numbers thus far.

It's Only Week 6

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    It must be remembered that Gronkowski only had 327 yards after five weeks last year. In the next five games, Gronkowski had 34 receptions for 478 yards. Two of those games were against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants.

    While some want to go ahead and press the panic button, it's still too early.

    Gronkowski and the Patriots have upcoming games against the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and Bills. While the game with the Seahawks could be tough for Gronkowski, the rest should see him have success.

    According to a chart posted by Fantasy Football Today, Gronkowski has more favorable matchups against the Jets, Rams and Bills.

    Nobody should expect Gronkowski to recover and put up the numbers he did last year. However, expecting 1,100 yards and 10-12 touchdowns is not out of the question. After all, he's still a huge threat in the red zone.