Turns out Gronk will play after all. Following a week in which most believed that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski would not take the field Sunday against the New York Jets, a turn of events Friday morning has led to him being cleared to play. This is huge news for this game, and Gronkowski’s presence becomes an immediate concern for the Jets.
When healthy, Gronk is the best tight end in the NFL and arguably the best red zone target in the league, and he is by far Tom Brady’s favorite target. In his last three games against the Jets, Gronkowski has totaled 18 receptions for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Jets have had some issues covering tight ends this season, and they have to be worried they won’t be able to match up with Gronkowski.
This news means that there is suddenly a massive amount of pressure on Demario Davis in this game. Davis is the only player on the Jets with combination of size, speed and skill necessary to cover Gronkowski, and the second year linebacker will spend the majority of his day shadowing Gronk.
The Jets had quite a bit of success against Brady in the Week 2 matchup between these teams, but the presence of Gronkowski changes everything. In addition to being a matchup nightmare, he gives Brady a much more reliable target than any of his inexperienced receivers, and he gives the team a serious red zone threat. The Jets will have to change their defensive schemes to account for this, likely using many of the same bracket coverages they used against Tony Gonzalez in Week 5.
This game was a big enough challenge for the Jets to begin with, and this news is the last thing they wanted to hear. The challenge of covering Gronkowski changes everything for the Jets’ defense, and his presence could very well be the key to a Patriots victory.