Groupings: Diversity back with Gronk

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
3:30
PM ET
One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings used by the New England Patriots' offense, as they reveal player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

One of the notable parts from the team's 55-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was how the breakthrough of tight end Rob Gronkowski led to a more diverse (and productive) attack. Consider that of the team's seven touchdowns, they came out of six different groupings:

3 WR/1 TE/1 RB -- Danny Amendola's 34-yard touchdown
1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- Gronkowski's 19-yard touchdown
3 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- Stevan Ridley's 1-yard run (2nd quarter)
2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- Aaron Dobson's 17-yard touchdown
1 WR/3 TE/1 RB -- Ridley's 1-yard run (4th quarter) and Dobson's 81-yard touchdown
2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- LeGarrette Blount's 5-yard run

Prior to Gronkowski's return, the Patriots had mostly been majoring in a three-receiver attack. But as Gronkowski gets back up to speed, it creates many options for McDaniels in terms of personnel groupings and formations.

Sunday's win over the Steelers was a prime example of this, as the Patriots had 37 of their 75 snaps with two or more tight ends on the field, and 34 snaps with three or more receivers. We're starting to see more multiple tight end packages, as would be expected with Gronkowski returning to the fold.

On the season, here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 668 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 419 of 668
2 or more TEs: 149 of 668
2 backs: 141 of 668

There is a 41-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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