With Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski undergoing back surgery today, Jason Vida of ESPN's Stats & Information department has put together three reasons the club should be concerned if Gronkowski isn't on the field.
1. Brady to Gronk. "The Brady-Gronkowski connection doesn’t just produce touchdowns. Since his rookie season in 2010, Gronkowski has caught 72.2 percent of his passes from Brady, tying the duo with Jason Witten and Tony Romo for the best completion percentage of any QB-TE or QB-WR combo over the last three seasons."
2. Red zone presence. "Gronkowski does most of his damage in the red zone, where he leads the league with 29 touchdowns since 2010. The only players with more red-zone targets than Gronkowski since his rookie year are All-Pro wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White."
3. Physical play. "At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is an important part of the Patriots ground game. Last season, New England averaged 4.4 yards per rush with Gronkowski on the field compared to 3.9 yards per carry with him on the sideline. ... In his three NFL seasons, Gronkowski has averaged 2.54 yards after contact per reception. The next-best figure by a wide receiver or tight end is Jermaine Gresham’s 2.30."
To read Vida's stats-based piece, which includes more detail on Gronkowski's impact, CLICK HERE.