New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when healthy, is the most unstoppable player in the NFL.
But he certainly hasn't played to that level during the 2018 NFL season. Gronkowski has played in seven of the Patriots' 10 games. He's caught 29 passes for 448 yards and one touchdown. Not exactly the type of All-Pro numbers we're accustomed to seeing from him.
What should we make of Gronkowski's on-field struggles and difficulties staying healthy? Well, Manish Mehta, who covers the New York Jets and NFL for the New York Daily News, thinks the veteran tight end's best days are long behind him.
The News' back page included a not-so-kind image of Gronk being propped up by his coach and QB:
Here is our @NYDNsports Wednesday back page:@MMehtaNYDN has bad news for #Patriots fans: Rob Gronkowski is done, and Brady and Belichick are just trying to prop him up: https://t.co/OjnBn5AzAt@patriots @BackPageGuyNYDN @espn @nflnetwork @EricBarrow pic.twitter.com/bMYvniqK2i— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) November 21, 2018
"Alas, that Gronk is gone, replaced by this prideful wobbly 6-6, 268-pound dude plodding along like some tip-calculator-carrying resident of Del Boca Vista," Mehta writes. "His body is 29 going on 92. Watching him run around on the few fall Sundays that he’s actually available is cringe-worthy stuff.
"He’s Bernie… and the weekend is nearly upon us. The Patriot Way means one thing and one thing only: Gronk’s key card into the gates of The Evil Empire will be deactivated the minute this season ends. It’s over for the best tight end of this generation."
Mehta reiterated those comments in this week's Quick Slants The Podcast with Tom E. Curran, listen below:
Sure, Gronkowski hasn't been the same elite player we've seen in the past, and injuries certainly have played a part in that. But it might be a bit premature to write him off as a complete shell of his former self.
Gronkowski has shown glimpes of dominance this season. He torched a very good Houston Texans defense in Week 1 for seven receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown. He also was a crucial part of the Patriots' Week 6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs with two catches for 81 yards in the fourth quarter (three receptions for 97 yards overall).
It's also possible he's taking things a bit slow to be fully ready for the playoffs, where the Patriots will need him to be as close to 100 percent as possible. Injuries to running backs, including first-round draft pick Sony Michel, have made it difficult for the Patriots to have optimal balance on offense. The Patriots might need to lean more on Brady and the passing attack in the playoffs as a result, and if that's the case, they'll need a healthy Gronk in the fold.
The Patriots enter Week 12 with their first of two matchups with the Jets over the final six games. The intense rivalry between these teams usually means no bulletin board material is needed to fire up either side, but Mehta might have given New England and Gronkowski a little extra motivation ahead of Sunday with his column.
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