NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Gronkowski could miss the rest of the 2012 regular season with the injury, but he should be available to New England during the playoffs.
Early word: Gronk has been informed that the initial timetable is 4-6 weeks with his broken forearm. Not good, could be worse.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 19, 2012
The Patriots already used their one allotted designated-to-return injured-reserve-list spot this season on another tight end: Visanthe Shiancoe. That means they’ll be in a similar position with Gronkowski as they have been with Aaron Hernandez in recent weeks if they want him to be active for postseason action.
Gronkowski’s presence on the field was a major matchup advantage for the Patriots on a regular basis. New England will have to continue to provide Tom Brady with enough legitimately threatening targets for the Patriots offense to hum as it is used to doing—or resort to running the ball more.
Assuming that the run/pass balance stays the same, three things may still happen in the Patriots passing game as a result of Gronkowski’s injury.
The tight-end rotation will assuredly be different without the massive Gronowski snagging balls from Brady. Hernandez, when healthy, should be the undisputed No. 1 option at tight end for New England without Gronkowski catching multiple touchdowns on any given Sunday.
Shiancoe and/or Michael Hoomanawanui will likely benefit from added targets for the rest of the regular season in New England’s two-tight-end sets.
Without Gronkowski, though, the Patriots probably won’t run plays from that personnel group quite as often. Wide receivers like Brandon Lloyd and Julian Edelman may see added opportunities to earn their respective paychecks. Each was targeted seven times in Week 11—as was Gronkowski—tying for No. 2 behind Wes Welker’s 11.
Gronkowski was injured in the fourth quarter.
The final potential ripple effect of his injury is the possibility of New England calling in pass-catching reinforcements. Comcast SportsNet’s Danny Picard reported that despite being recently cut to make room for cornerback Aqib Talib, wideout Deion Branch still has a designated locker in Foxboro.
The Patriots could give their old employee a call—Branch would make a seamless transition into Brady’s offensive attack because he has so much experience with him.
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