The circumstances are different, but the Patriots have had to play without Rob Gronkowski a number of times in the past. This time, however, it is a one-game suspension, rather than an injury, that will keep the tight end on the sideline.
FOXBORO – It is a situation they’ve had to cope with a time or few before.
No Rob Gronkowski?
The Patriots have been there, done that in the past.
While the circumstances are new – a one-game suspension following the tight end’s late hit from behind as Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White lay on the ground in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 23-3 win over the Bills at New Era Field – the situation that will unfold for the Patriots in Monday night’s game with Miami at Hard Rock Stadium isn’t.
Injury plagued throughout his eight-year career, the Patriots have had to play without Gronkowski in the past, going 20-5 in regular-season games, 4-2 in the postseason.
“Every week, you deal with the players that you have available and the opponent you’re playing,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “You put it together and figure it out. It’s the same every week.”
Lacking Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, the offseason trade acquisition from the Indianapolis Colts who’s struggled to fit in the Patriots offense but shown some improvement of late, is the next man up.
Allen has played the part before, his participation in 50 of the Patriots’ 74 offensive snaps in their 19-14 win over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 5 – a game Gronkowski missed due to a thigh injury – a season high.
Even with his extended playing time in that game, Allen wasn’t targeted by quarterback Tom Brady. The 6-foot-3, 265-pounder didn’t make a catch this season until he hauled in an 11-yard pass from Brady for a touchdown late in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 41-16 rout of Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Nov. 12.
Appearing in all 12 of the Patriots’ games to date, Allen now has five receptions for 40 yards and the TD. Allen made 126 receptions for 1,451 yards and 19 TDs in 57 games over five seasons in Indy.
While Allen’s efforts haven’t shown up on the stat sheet, Belichick said they’ve shown up on the field.
“Dwayne works hard,” said Belichick. “He does whatever we ask him to do. He works very hard at it whatever it is. His role in the Tampa game was different than his role in the game before and however it turns out. Sometimes we’re in more three-receiver sets. Sometimes it’s more two-receiver sets. Sometimes it’s the fullback. Sometimes it’s the fullback and two tight ends. Sometimes it’s two tight ends.
“So he’s ready to go and always prepared, always works hard at his job, tries to get it right. We all make mistakes. We all correct them, try to do it better the next time. He’s embraced that.”
Jacob Hollister, a 6-foot-4, 239-pound rookie free agent out of Wyoming who has made three catches for 37 yards in the 11 games he’s played, is the other tight end on the Patriots’ active roster at the current time.
“I think I definitely feel more comfortable just learning from guys like Gronk and Dwayne. That’s been really helpful for me,” said Hollister. “You feel these coaches try to prepare you as much as they can every week and then we just try to go out and execute the best that you can so that’s what I’m going to do.”
While an increased role for fullback James Develin is a possibility, former New York Giants-New York Jets tight end Will Tye presents another option should the team choose to promote him from the spot on the practice squad he’s held since Oct. 12.
“Athletic. Improved a lot,” Belichick said of Tye, who caught 94 passes for 897 yards and four TDs in 32 games over three seasons with the Giants and Jets. “We’ve asked him to do some things that he’s worked on and he’s shown good improvement in. He’s a big guy (6-foot-2, 256) that can run, catch and has presence on the line of scrimmage to block. So he’s done a good job.”