Red zone key area with Gronkowski


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are many layers to analyze when it comes to Rob Gronkowski being cleared by independent doctor James Andrews to play in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

The red zone is at the top of the list.

Even if Gronkowski is limited in his return, and one figures he won’t play every snap as he normally would when healthy, he could certainly be on the field for every red zone snap. It’s an area where the Patriots have traditionally been strong, but 2013 has been a struggle.

In 22 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the Patriots have converted just nine touchdowns. In terms of touchdown percentage, they rank 30th in the NFL.

In 2012, the Patriots ranked first in the NFL in touchdown percentage inside the red zone -- 49 touchdowns in 70 trips.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski’s size and reliable hands are especially valuable when space gets tight in the red zone.

That’s the main area where Gronkowski, at least initially as he knocks off the inevitable rust any player would have in his situation, figures to help the Patriots most.