The Rob Gronkowski Watch has been in effect since, well ... it’s always been in effect.
Whether he’s ripping down footballs in the field, partying it up with his brothers, or going under the knife, what Gronk does is usually headline news around New England.
Unfortunately for Pats fans, he hasn’t made any headlines on the field this season because he’s been out for the team’s first five games, still recovering from back and forearm surgery.
That may all change this Sunday.
According to multiple reports, Gronkowski is expected to be cleared to play this week and should be active for Sunday’s tilt against the undefeated Saints.
The news couldn’t come at a better time for a Patriots offense that has been borderline unwatchable to start the year, with the most recent example being the six points they put up in a loss to the Bengals.
It also validates the Patriots’ decision to not put him on the PUP list to start the season, which would have prevented him from playing until Week 7 at the earliest.
With Danny Amendola returning against the Bengals, and Gronkowski likely to return this Sunday, the Patriots offense may actually start to resemble one. The Saints, on the other hand, have the definition of one.
The Saints average 405 yards of offense per game (fourth in NFL) and 327 passing yards per game (second in NFL). Quarterback Drew Brees has plenty of weapons, including a stud tight end of his own, Jimmy Graham, who has 593 receiving yards and five touchdowns through five games. According to Pro Football Focus, Graham has been split out wide or in the slot in 166 of his 269 offensive snaps.
“Real tough. Graham is a very good receiving tight end,” Bill Belichick said. “They split him out, they keep him kind of in the traditional tight end position, but he has a big route tree . . . tough to handle on third down.”
Even the Saints’ running backs get in on the passing game. Darren Sproles is one of the best receiving backs in the NFL.
“Sproles is a real explosive guy that can take a pass behind the line of scrimmage, screen pass, angle route or flat route,” Belichick said. “Also he has a pretty big route tree too. Vertical routes, hot routes, outside routes. They use some empty formation – not a ton of it but enough. It’s hard to find [Sproles and Graham] - both of them. They move around quite a bit. They’re definitely tough matchups.”
So while much of the talk will be on the undefeated Saints offense heading into the game, the hope is that there will be some positive buzz – and maybe some hope – surrounding the Patriots offense when it’s over.