Rob Gronkowski will most likely play, but will his ankle hinder his effectiveness? If so, how will the Pats try to compensate? With some help from Matt Bowen of NFP, we’ll examine:
“I’m guilty of discounting the Patriots’ run game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead because of Brady, Welker, Hernandez, etc. However, because of the multiple formations New England will use in their game plan (and their ability to run the power game out of the gun), I wouldn’t be surprised to see more focus put on the run game in spread alignmnents. And if the Giants want to play with a seven-man front (think Cover 2 in the secondary), the Pats could have some success on the ground.”
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, in addition to having an awesome name, is a pretty good back. The Giants have been good at run stopping this season, but the combo of him, a pretty powerful back, and Danny Woodhead, a shifty back, might be difficult. If, As Bowem mentions, they run a lot out of shotgun, it could be an issue, because the Giants might hink pass and bring a pass rush personnel. Oh, and Hernandez can run out of the backfield too.
The Patriots want to throw their vertical concepts inside of the numbers or with the TEs on the 7 cut (corner route). If Gronkowski can’t build up to top speed on the ankle, we could see Deion Branch outside of the numbers in the vertical route tree. I understand the Pats’ offensive system is built on throwing underneath concepts and working the ball methodically down the field on short option routes and inside cuts, but there will be opportunities to target Branch (or Hernandez when removed from the core of the formation) when the Giants play some man-coverage (or blitz-man) in the secondary.
Branch on Webster would be the matchup, most likely. Can he blow by Webster? Not likely. But without a pass rush, perhaps.
Welker will continue to work the middle of the field in the Patriots’ system regardless of the health of Gronkowski, but one route that sticks out for me is the intermediate dig route (square-in). Gronkowski goes to work on safeties when running inside concepts because of his size and length. Yes, Hernandez could be the TE on Sunday to run this concept, but Welker could see more targets from Brady working the short to intermediate game vs. the Giants.
I say Ross on Welker because Ross is faster. But Welker will get open. And that crossing route is death for the Giants. Could be an issue.