On Now
Coming Up
  • Tue., Feb. 27, 2018 12:00 AM MST NFL Scouting Combine begins Feb. 27-March 5: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Mon., Mar. 12, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Clubs may negotiate with unrestricted free agents March 12-14: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2017 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14.
  • Wed., Mar. 14, 2018 2:00 PM MDT 2018 league year and free agency period begin

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2018 on all players who have option clauses in their 2017 contracts.

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

    Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

    Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2018 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    All 2017 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    The 2018 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

    The first day of the 2018 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14.

    The first day of the 2018 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14.

    Trading period for 2018 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2017 contracts.

  • Sun., Mar. 25, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Annual League Meetings begin March 25-28: Annual League Meetings, Orlando, Florida.
  • Mon., Apr. 16, 2018 12:00 AM MDT Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs April 16: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
  • Thu., Apr. 26, 2018 6:00 PM MDT 2018 NFL Draft begins April 26-28: 2018 NFL Draft, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX.
Print
RSS

Breaking Down the Patriots Offense

Posted Nov 23, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason writes that the Patriots' offense flows through tight end Rob Gronkowski.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It is a testament to Tom Brady and the Patriots' offensive game-planning that their offense has remained one of the league's most productive, even as they have coped with a pass-catching corps dented by injury, departure and arrest without bail.

But now, the group is the closest to optimal health as it has been this season. Danny Amendola finally has the chance to settle into his role, and Julian Edelman did well filling in for Amendola; the two have combined for 841 yards on 81 receptions, and have adequately replaced Wes Welker.

But everything flows from tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“They’re going to get him the ball one way or another. And we’ve got our hands full," said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. "You wish he’d drop a few passes along the way, but that doesn’t happen very often. So we’ve just to play our good defense and let the chips fall where they may.”

Since his return in week 7, Gronkowski has returned to his usual pace; he's averaging six yards a catch and 87 yards a game; he's scored twice; he's been effective down the seam. But his impact extends to the rest of the Patriot's

But since Gronkowski's return, the Patriots' offense has improved -- well beyond the passing game:

* Before Gronkowski's return, the Patriots averaged 4.87 yards per play, 6.4 percent below the average permitted by the six defenses they faced. In the weeks since, they've averaged 5.73 yards per play -- 11.8 percent above what their opposing defenses usually allow.

* Without Gronkowski, New England averaged 5.37 yards per pass play, 9.7 percent below what their opposing defenses yielded. With him, that average spiked to 6.54 yards per pass play, 8.3 percent above the average permitted by opposing defenses.

* Without Gronkowski, Brady completed 56.9 percent of his passes, 5.6 percent below the average allowed by their foes. With him, Brady's completion percentage is up to 61.7 percent, .56 percent above the average allowed by their opposing defenses.

Defending Gronkowski means sacrificing something else, unless you're able to contain him with one defender, all the time -- something the Broncos don't plan to do.

"He’s a good player; he’ll require more than just one guy," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "He’ll need some attention and his productivity and all that kind of mandates that. But we’ll mix it up like we do -- we’ll have a plan for it."

The key, overall, is not backing down from Gronkowski, even if he tries to be physical. As Carolina's Luke Kuechly showed Monday night, sometimes physicality doesn't result in a penalty.

"You can chip him, but then you kind of affect your pass rush," said Bailey. "You don’t want to spend too much time doing that. But we definitely want to be physical with him as much as we can and hopefully just cover him a lot better than we did in the past.”

NOTES:

* The only major offensive metric to take a hit since Gronkowski's return has been the Patriots' sack rate, which has spiked from one every 15.94 pass plays to one every 12.75. But that is due less to having a receiving-oriented tight end in the lineup and more to the season-ending broken leg suffered two games ago by New England right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Vollmer allowed just two sacks and 13 hurries in 311 plays where he worked as a pass blocker. His replacement, Marcus Cannon, has a slightly lower sack ratio, allowing just one in 188 pass-blocking snaps, but has been slightly less effective at permitting hurries.

* Much has been made of the pace the Patriots maintained against the Broncos last year, often snapping the football with between 20 and 30 seconds left on the play clock. But the Broncos' occasional accelerated offensive pace -- and the work the defense had against it in practice -- should mean fewer issues if the Patriots try to move at warp speed this time.