As Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski's playing time has increased upon his return from a torn right ACL, the Patriots have trended more toward multiple-tight-end groupings, which makes sense. Specifically, the Patriots seem to have found something that works for them -- going empty with the 2-WR/2-TE/1-RB grouping with Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end, which in a lot of ways could be viewed as a 3-WR package of sorts because of Wright's presence as more of a pass-catching tight end.
With a lower percentage of three-receiver packages, it has reduced the playing-time totals for pure slot receiver Danny Amendola. But as we saw Thursday, he's still contributing in that niche role (as well as a kickoff returner).
One could also draw the conclusion that inconsistent play along the offensive line has contributed to fewer three-receiver packages. By playing with a second or third tight end instead of a second or third receiver, the Patriots are devoting more resources to the line of scrimmage. Everything starts up front.
The story goes on to say that every offense needs something to hang its hat on and perhaps the Pats found it. Gronk's health has been key to this and multiple TE sets are allowing QB Tom Brady to takes shots down field while at the same time bolstering things up front. The Pats are used multiple TEs 57-percent of the time this season.
*He's 5-foot-10, 230 pounds, the biggest tailback on the New England roster.
*Gray had a sensational senior season at Notre Dame in 2011, rushing for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 114 carries before tearing his ACL on Senior Day. He took the starting job from running back Cierre Wood when the Irish were 4-3. When he injured his knee, Notre Dame was 8-3.
*Gray earned his spot on the Patriots roster after a strong preseason, which included a 12-carry, 98-yard performance against Philadelphia.
*Gray rushed for over 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior at Detroit Country Day School. It's also the same high school that produced NBA players Chris Webber, Shane Battier and JaVale McGee.
*There were 18 running backs drafted in 2012. Gray was not among them. He signed futures contracts with Miami and then Baltimore, and hasn't carried the ball in a regular season game since his final game at Notre Dame in November, 2011.
It's telling that the Patriots elected to play Gray ahead of veteran Brandon Bolden on a short week. Shane Vereen led the running backs in touches with 16, while Gray saw three carries and Bolden had one catch. We would expect Gray's role to increase as he has more time to run with the first team in practice. Perhaps a role of 6-8 carries per game is in his future. Vereen's role expanded significantly in Week 7, but again, it was a short week of preparation.
This means that Gray is likely to be active for tonight's game against the Jets. It doesn't mean he's going to see significant snaps, but he may be in the mix. We're expecting Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden (career 4.5 YPC) to get most of Ridley's carries. Gray is a name to remember, however.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:35pm
Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle, probable) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Brady only managed 413 passing yards and one touchdown in two meetings with the Jets last season. The good news is that Rob Gronkowski only played in one of those games.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:35pm
Patriots RB Stevan Ridley (knee, out) was ruled out for Week 7. He’s out for the year. We’re expecting Brandon Bolden to pick up most of the slack, though James White and practice squader Jonas Gray could be in the mix as well.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:35pm
A report on Monday said Brady's ankle injury was significant and needed a lot of therapy leading up to the Bills game. But as this story said, there's no indication how much it bothers him. It's assumed Brady will be a go Thursday at home against the Jets. With RB Stevan Ridley lost for the year, and the Jets weak against the pass, Brady could be in store for a nice night.
“It’s something that obviously you need to stay on top of, because at any time it can come back, and I guess (you can) aggravate it (again) or (it can) just swell up a little bit,” Decker said. “Obviously I am doing all the right things and working with the training staff to make sure that my strength is good and flexibility, all those things are good.”
It’s good news for the Jets, who have done statistically better with Decker on the field. The Jets will also have wide receiver David Nelson back after he missed the Broncos game following a setback to his ankle injury.
The one likely absence? Wide receiver Greg Salas came into the locker room at the tail end of media availability and was seen with a cast on his wrist.
It's actually not a great matchup for Decker and the passing game on top of all the struggles. The Pats rank 8th in allowing fantasy points to WRs
Out of the four backs, Gray most closely resembles Ridley as a power, north-south runner. He had a nice preseason effort against the Eagles, carrying 12 times for 98 yards. But that was Aug. 15, and this is the regular season.
The story also believes the Pats could get by with Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. In the preseason, many on the Patriots beat felt James White was a guy who could eventually replace Vereen next season, so he doesn't seem like a candidate to get the between-the-tackles carries. The Pats running game has often been a mystery week-to-week and it looks like it's going to stay that way.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 1:58pm
Returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Pats TE Rob Gronkowski wasn't running a full route tree, couldn't separate from coverage and failed to make defenders miss after the catch.
We started to see signs that Gronk was recapturing pre-injury form when he racked up 100 yards on six receptions in a tight-end centric offense versus the Bengals in Week 5.
After the two-time All-Pro selection caught seven more passes for 94 yards -- including a go route down the right sideline -- in Sunday's victory at Buffalo, Tom Brady was convinced his difference-making go-to target was back.
"Oh yeah, he's back," Brady said after Sunday's game, via ESPN.com. "Absolutely."
The story went on to point out that the last few weeks Gronkowski ran intermediate and deep routes, made sharp cuts, forced missed tackles and absorbed crushing hits. In short, he looked like the player who led the league in red-zone touchdowns, quarterback-to-receiver completion percentage and yards after catch over his first three NFL seasons. Hopefully for owners, you stuck with him through a slow start and limited snaps that was expected as he went through recovery. Gronkowski's matchups for the rest of the season look pretty favorable with currently no top-10 defenses against TEs.
Much like his career in New England, Ridley was up and down this season after getting benched numerous times last season for fumbling. He was the best power runner on the team, so his presence will be missed. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden will likely pick up the slack at least in Week 7 - a short week, Thursday night home game against the Jets. It's also possible we see more of James White, the rookie who gained a lot of popularity in the preseason. The only thing safe to say about this situation is it won't be very safe at all, as the Pats rushing attack is often specific to their opponent. Vereen will continue to be a usable back in PPR leagues, but Bolden has had his chances in the past and odds say he won't be the long-term answer. It's very possible the team brings in another back leading up to Week 8.
Monday, October 13, 2014, 2:55pm
Geno Smith will be the starting quarterback when the New York Jets face the Patriots on Thursday, coach Rex Ryan confirmed. Some of the team’s fans have chanted for backup Michael Vick to be played when Smith has struggled.
"You can look at Mike to adding different things," Ryan said. "But I think Geno’s the way to go right now, and that’s why I’m comfortable saying he’ll be our starter."
Vick, the team’s $4 million backup, has not had much better luck when he’s been inserted into games. During a 31-0 loss in San Diego, both Smith and Vick played a half, and neither was able to get much going on offense. Early on, Vick was used in some wildcat packages without much success.
According to two sources that spoke with Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, the ankle injury that made Tom Brady questionable to play in Sunday's game with the Bills was significant and needed a lot of therapy to be ready by the time the Patriots kicked off in Buffalo.
Brady rolled his ankle on the foot of one of his offensive linemen during Friday's practice, and he was listed as a limited participant in the session. He was later deemed "questionable" for Sunday, indicating that there was a 50-50 chance he would play.
Many thought it was the Pats overplaying things leading up to the game but sounds like it was a legit injury for Brady. Ironically, Brady had his best game of the season on Sunday against the Bills. We're assuming there were no setbacks but it's something to keep an eye on when the injury report comes out. The Pats have a quick turnaround and play the Jets at home Thursday.
Ridley is the best pure runner on the Patriots and adds an element of toughness between the tackles that Shane Vereen simply doesn't bring to the table, the story added. Brandon Bolden stepped in to take some snaps in Ridley's place and would likely see more going forward. It's also possible we see some James White, a popular name in the preseason. The Pats have a quick turnaround and play Thursday night at home against the Jets so it's likely they ride with Vereen and Bolden in a tough matchup because they may not have time to add a bigger back who could provide significant snaps by Thursday.
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