Rob Gronkowski still appears to be on track to start at tight end for the New England Patriots on Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season. The team’s website notes however that starting the season healthy won’t be much consolation if Gronkowski once again can’t finish it without injury.
At this point all signs point toward Gronk being ready to go in Week 1, but that’s really not the important part of the equation for the Patriots. Can he withstand the rigors of an NFL season and put his injury problems behind him? If he can then the lack of depth at the position won’t be much of a concern.
Once the pillar of the New England skill spots, the tight end position is now entirely dependent on Gronkowski for offense. Both Michael Hoomanawanui and James Develin are considered blockers more than anything else and it’s only Gronk who can create the separation necessary to add that dangerous element to the Tom Brady-led New England offense.
Gronkowski tallied 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last full season, which came in 2011. Gronk missed nine games last season and five in the previous year. If the hulking tight end can only play in half the team’s game or fewer this year, expect the Patriots offense to struggle enough to cast some doubt over their stranglehold on the AFC East.