Last season, as a rookie out of Arizona, New England Patriots tight end (and Williamsville, NY native) Rob Gronkowski torched the Buffalo Bills to the tune of seven receptions, 97 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats swept the Bills. That all transpired before Gronkowski emerged as the best young tight end prospect in the NFL.
Through two games, Gronkowski ranks sixth amongst tight ends in receptions (10), third in yardage (172) and is tied with one Scott Chandler for first with three touchdowns. Coupled with Aaron Hernandez - who will reportedly miss Week 3 with a knee injury - Gronkowski has helped re-shape what the Patriots do offensively.
"Gronkowski and Hernandez have completely changed the Patriots' offensive scheme," says Greg Knopping of PatsPulpit.com. "Gronkowski, at nearly 6'7" and 265 pounds, is the do-it-all 'traditional' tight end. He's a force to be reckoned with in the red zone (13 touchdowns in his first 18 NFL games), he's an excellent in-line blocker that has helped revamp the Patriots running game, and he is still able to get down field and stretch opposing defenses."
As Chandler has proven with the Bills this season, a tight end with height and length can add an entirely different dimension to an offense. Gronkowski provides that for the Patriots - it's why he's such a potent red zone target - but really is the complete package, able to do everything asked of him to a high level on the football field.
Right now, it's not Wes Welker that is the driving force of the Patriots' passing offense behind Tom Brady - it's Gronkowski. Buffalo's defense has some coverage players that they'll work against Gronkowski - Bryan Scott, Nick Barnett and George Wilson chief among them - but none are particularly strong matchups for the Bills. It's imperative that the Bills slow down Gronkowski's torrid pace, particularly in the red zone, so expect lots of zone coverages and plenty of attention from Buffalo's secondary.