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Patriots' stockpile of TEs to help fill void left by Gronk

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By Kevin Fishbain

Who knew an extra point could prove so costly? When the Patriots kicked their final point of the game, finishing off a 59-24 win over the Colts, TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm, which could keep him out anywhere from four to eight weeks, based on various reports. Gronk was already having a strong season while playing through a hip injury.

TE Aaron Hernandez, who rushed back from an ankle injury to play in Weeks Six and Seven but hasn't played since, should be back in Week 12 to help fill the receiving void. Gronkowski, who rarely leaves the field, is crucial in the Patriots’ run game, and New England has focused on the run more often this season. It's hard to predict a blueprint for a Patriots offense without Gronkowski — he hasn't missed a game in his career — but they have played plenty without Hernandez and the offense still ran smoothly.

Bill Belichick did pick a good offseason to load up on tight ends, though, as it will help offset Gronkowski's absence. The injury likely keeps Michael Hoomanawanui on the roster, as we heard he could be in jeopardy of getting cut when Hernandez returned. Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells and Visanthe Shiancoe will likely all play a role as the team’s run-blocking tight end, and each has pass-catching skills to give Tom Brady another target.

Another area where Gronk will be missed is in the red zone. In the Patriots’ three losses this season, they are an ugly 5-for-14 in scoring touchdowns on red-zone opportunities. Gronkowski leads the team with 18 red-zone targets (10 catches, eight of which were touchdowns), and after him is Brandon Lloyd with 10 targets.

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