February 01, 2018
There was little question that New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski was going to play in the Super Bowl after suffering a concussion in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Thursday, Gronkowski passed through the NFL's concussion protocol and will be a go on Sunday in the Super Bowl.
"I officially got the word today that I was cleared, so it was super nice to hear from the doctors, going through the whole process, and I'm ready to roll," said Gronkowski.
In our five matchups to watch when the Patriots have the ball, we noted that Malcolm Jenkins is the most likely candidate to match up on Gronkowski, though he will garner more attention from the Eagles' defense than just one player.
In Week 2, Chiefs stud tight end Travis Kelce put up good numbers against the Eagles' defense, as he caught 8 passes for 103 yards, and a TD. Kelce bears a closer resemblance to Gronk than anyone the Eagles have faced this season. In that game, the Chiefs did a lot of creative things to get the ball in Kelce's hands, such as a shovel pass that went 15 yards for a score, and some quick screens, but the only time Kelce really beat a defender man-up was when he was able to shake Malcolm Jenkins down the sideline for a 44 yard gain.
Certainly, the Eagles will bracket Gronk on occasion, particularly in the red zone, but there will be times when an Eagles defender will be asked to lock him down on his own. No matter who the Eagles choose to cover Gronk when they are in man defense, they will be giving something up. If they put Jenkins or a third safety like Corey Graham on Gronk, they'll be giving up size. If they put a linebacker on him, they're giving up a higher likelihood of separation... and also, size again.
If I were Jim Schwartz, I'd be more inclined to cover him with Jenkins or Graham and make Brady and Gronk beat me with good ball placement and contested catches, rather than upping the odds of Gronk running free through the secondary against Bradham or Kendricks.
On the season, in 14 games, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1084 yards (15.7 YPC) and 8 TDs. Tom Brady aside, Gronkowski is by far the Patriots' most dangerous weapon in their potent offense.
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