Could Rob Gronkowski return to Patriots? Robert Kraft gives interesting answer

Could Rob Gronkowski return to Patriots? Robert Kraft gives interesting answer

Rob Gronkowski will be back in the NFL spotlight Thursday night, but he won't be suiting up for the New England Patriots in their game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.

The veteran tight end is making his NFL on FOX debut as an analyst for their coverage of Thursday's matchup in Foxboro. The sight of Gronkowski on television no doubt will excite Patriots fans who miss the future Hall of Famer. Many of these fans want Gronkowski to come back and play for the Patriots given the team's inability through five games this season to replace anywhere near his old production at tight end.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked on NFL Network before the Thursday's game about a potential return of Gronk, and he didn't completely shut it down.

Hope with Gronk? Interesting, indeed.

Gronkowski has been busy in retirement. In addition to his new television job at FOX Sports, he's also partnered with a CBD company.

Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse have played most of the snaps at tight end for the Patriots this season, and they haven't tallied 10 receptions between them. New England released veteran tight end Benjamin Watson on Monday, and head coach Bill Belichick noted on Tuesday the team intends to keep developing Izzo and LaCosse.

Still, if Gronkowski wanted to play, it's hard to imagine the Patriots would turn him away, especially if he was in good physical shape. But, for now, the idea of Gronkowski returning is a dream and nothing more.

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Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

The New England Patriots added even more depth to an elite group of cornerbacks Sunday by acquiring Michael Jackson in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Jackson, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. The Detroit Lions signed him off the Cowboys practice squad last season and he played in one game for the NFC North team.

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Here's an updated look at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart with Jackson in the fold:

--Stephon Gilmore
--Jason McCourty
--J.C. Jackson
--Jonathan Jones
--Joejuan Williams
--Michael Jackson
--Myles Bryant
--D’Angelo Ross

It should be noted that Justin Bethel is listed at cornerback, but most of his snaps come on special teams. 

A strong case could be made that cornerback is the deepest position on the Patriots roster. The group is led by Stephon Gilmore, who became the first Patriot ever to win the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. Gilmore is the league's best cornerback and has earned first team All-Pro selections in back-to-back seasons. 

He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. 

J.C. Jackson excelled in coverage last season, too, especially on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, Jackson had the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted of all cornerbacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

One of the most intriguing players in the Patriots secondary is second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2019 but saw limited playing time as a rookie.

The depth of the Patriots defense has been hit hard in recent months due to free agent departures and veterans opting out of the 2020 season amid concerns over COVID-19. One position that has remained largely intact is cornerback, and barring any significant injuries, it could be the team's most productive position this coming season.

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

The New England Patriots have added another cornerback to their depth chart.

On Sunday, they announced they've acquired Michael Jackson from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2022 draft pick.

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Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (158th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Miami. He started his rookie season on Dallas' practice squad before being signed by Detroit.

The 23-year-old played in only one game last season for the Lions.

Jackson joins a Patriots cornerback group that currently consists of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D'Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel, and Myles Bryant.