Ravens Preparing For TE Rob Gronkowski


Rob Gronkowski took the NFL by storm last season.

The explosive tight end created mismatches against just about every opponent he faced and torched the NFL for 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

As the Ravens prepare to face the Patriots this Sunday, defending the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski will be at the top of the priority list, but veteran safety Ed Reed isn't viewing the big tight end as a mismatch.

"Not a big mismatch at all; it's just a matter of knowing where your help is at within the scheme of things and playing your coverage," Reed told reporters on Wednesday. "He's going to get some balls because he is a great tight end, a great receiver, but you just got to be mindful of where he's at and what he does."

After a breakout campaign last year, Gronkowski is off to another impressive start. He has 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns through the first two weeks.

But this week – and likely for the next month – he will be without his counterpart Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, forcing the Patriots to bring in veteran tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. He is a new piece in the Patriots offense, where the tight ends play a critical role, and Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn't expect it to take long for Winslow to get acclimated.

"Kellen was in a similar offense in Tampa Bay with Pete Mangurian, so he understands what they are doing," Harbaugh said. "There's no reason that he can't plug right in there and play."

Facing off against the Patriots' tight ends comes a week after the Ravens allowed 157 receiving yards to Eagles tight end Brent Celek.

When asked what the defense needs to do to ensure there isn't a repeat performance with Gronkowski this week, linebacker Ray Lewis said the two offenses can't be compared.

"I think you're dealing with two totally different offenses," he said. "You are dealing with two totally different quarterbacks. You are dealing with a quarterback [Eagles QB Michael Vick] last week who can make magic anytime he gets out of the pocket with his legs. … "I think last week is already in the past. I think this week is about really focusing on [Patriots QB Tom] Brady, kind of getting him off his spot, because if you let him sit in the pocket, it's like a seven-on-seven [skeleton drill] for them."

While the Ravens were susceptible to big plays from the tight end last week, Brady doesn't necessarily see an area he can plan to exploit with Gronkowski and Winslow.

"You have to wait and see how the game plays out," Brady said. "If the focus is on the tight ends, we have to throw it somewhere else. I always feel like we have to get the ball to the guys that are open, not a certain position or player."

In last year's AFC championship game, Gronkowski caught five passes for 87 yards and Hernandez had seven catches for 66 yards. The Ravens often put safety Bernard Pollard on Gronkowski, until the tight end suffered an ankle injury during a tackle by Pollard.

Pollard's status is somewhat up in the air for Sunday after he suffered a rib injury last week, and it's unclear how that could impact the plans to defend Gronkowski. Whoever ends up playing and guarding the Patriots tight ends, the Ravens know they have a challenging task in front of them.

"We'll just have to prepare for those guys, and we've seen those guys before," Harbaugh said. "We'll have to be ready for those guys on Sunday."

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