A powerful Patriots offense will only get stronger in Week 3 when All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski returns to the field. New England’s owner, Robert Kraft, said to Lisa Hughes of WBZ-TV that "you’d be wise" if you think the big playmaker will dress for Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans after missing the beginning of the season due to a hamstring injury. ESPN’s Adam Schefter also confirmed that Gronkowski is ready to go.
"Gronk" has been the heart and soul of the New England offense since being drafted by Bill Belichick back in 2010. In six seasons with the team, he’s been named a first-team All-Pro selection four times. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 17 in 2011 and caught 72 passes for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
The Patriots turned to Martellus Bennett in the absence of their usual TE1. Bennett started the season slowly with an anonymous performance against the Cardinals, but was an invaluable safety net for the team’s young quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett — in a Week 2 win against the Miami Dolphins.
Having Gronkowski back on the field should benefit Brissett, who will be starting against the Texans as Garoppolo is sidelined with a sprained AC joint he suffered against the Dolphins.
Bennett should have a reduced role with Gronkowski back in the lineup, but Bill Belichick will find a way to utilize his dynamic tight ends. The Patriots helped revolutionize the two-TE lineup at the beginning of the decade with Gronkowski and the since-disgraced Aaron Hernandez; the pair combined for 2,237 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011.
So far, injuries have been the only effective way of slowing the big tight end down. He missed five games in the 2012 season after breaking his arm in special teams duty, then nine more games in 2013 due to offseason back surgery as well as a torn ACL in December.
If history is any indication, the Patriots tight end will come back as strong as he ever was. Gronkowski shook off those 2012 and 2013 injuries to regain his All-Pro status and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 after catching 82 passes in 15 games.