The New England Patriots present a laundry list of coverage issues
for opposing secondaries, not the least of which is how to handle All
Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The talented man-child
commands double teams on every break into the pattern, and has changed
the entire dynamic of the Patriots' offense since returning three weeks
ago from multiple surgeries in the off season. - his presence alone
enough to open the field up for the rest of New England's stable of
There may be no stopping Gronkowski on Monday night
And now with the offense anticipating
the return of multi-dimensional H-back Shane Vereen for action against
the Carolina Panthers this coming Monday night, Gronkowski's impact
becomes even greater.
But for Gronkowski and, indeed,
the entire Patriots' offense to be effective, the running game must be
established. To run on the Panthers makes them susceptible to the play
action - expertly executed by quarterback Tom Brady - and allows
Gronkowski some autonomy to do things like chip the defensive end to
impede his pass rush...
...and coupled with the play
action, Gronkowski can float into the underneath pattern to give Brady a
safety valve with unbelievable hands and unmatched athleticism, bowling
over would be tacklers like they were pinballs bouncing off bumpers.
is an integral part of both the running and passing game, being both
one of the best mauling "wham" blockers in the NFL in the running game
as well as a deceptively fast tank that can challenge the seam.
no easy task dealing with the likes of Gronkowski, so the key for the
Panthers in stopping him is to stop the New England running game, which
will allow Carolina to employ a nickle safety to shadow the third year
load while still being able to account for the deep threat of rookie
wide receiver Aaron Dobson, the slot presence of Danny Amendola and
Julian Edelman and the versatility of the speedy Vereen.
than likely, the Panthers' linebackers will be involved in coverage on
Gronkowski as well, the likes of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis as good a
pass coverage troupe as there is in the league underneath, both with
the speed to maintain bracket coverage in tandem with the nickle safety
on the seam routes and with the bulk and power to drag him down on the
It's possible that Carolina could
even get a little creative on him, sending their own tight end Greg
Olsen into coverage on Gronkowski as they did against Atlanta's Tony
Gonzalez, Olsen's expereince at the position helping to limit the
Falcons' former all pro to just six catches.
Patriots decide that the way to soften up the Panthers' run defense is
to spread things out and force them into a nickle or dime base,
Gronkowski will still have duties in run blocking, and that's when
Kuechly's football IQ will come into play in diagnosing the play, keying
on the movements of Gronkowski and flowing to where he's headed.
no mistake, New England is just as prepared to use Gronkowski as a
decoy as they are throwing the ball to him over the top of the seam,
knowing that their star tight end is going to draw double and even
triple coverage in an attempt to keep him from dominating the game...
their efforts in assigning a nickle safety and a linebacker to keep him
down could backfire on them, given the other legitimate weapons at
Brady's disposal - but the only other alternative is to dictate to the
entire Patriots' offensive scheme by stopping the run, which means
single coverage on Gronkowski in hopes that the pass rush can get to
Either way, the Panthers' haven't encountered an
offense such as the Patriots are ready to expose them with on Monday
night, nor the one that the New Orleans Saints will unleash on them the
following week - but if they can find a way to shut down Gronkowski,
then the Saints' Jimmy Graham in succession, they will have earned their
moniker of the best defense in football.