New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is known as the best in the game. At 6’6”, 265 pounds, he’s too big, strong, tall and long for defensive backs to cover and he’s simply too fast and too good of a route runner for linebackers. So as quarterback Tom Brady’s No. 1 weapon, he’s put up great numbers throughout his career.
At TE for the Oakland Raiders will be Jared Cook, who isn’t as known as Gronkowski but has the arrow pointing up. The 6’5” 250-pounder with 4.4 40 speed has the tools to be every bit the threat of Gronkowski. But he was stuck on bad teams with bad QB’s his first seven years before breaking out late last season with Aaron Rodgers. Now with QB Derek Carr, Cook has been playing some of the best football of his career.
“I think there’s certainly something to him finding that rhythm,” Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said this week of Cook. “We’ve tried to highlight him in the passing game matchup-wise throughout the course of the season. I think he’s getting a little bit more comfortable building that chemistry with Derek [Carr] a little bit, understanding route stems and things of that nature. He’s really doing a great job and he’s been working hard all year so it’s finally starting to pay off in the way we’ve anticipated. So, we’re excited about that.”
In a direct comparison, right now, the numbers favor Gronkowski who has 38 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns to Cook’s 39 catches from 499 yards and just one TD. But Cook has developed chemistry with Carr and has hit his stride lately. In the last three games, he has no TD’s but he’s caught 18 passes for 290 yards to 23 catches for 182 yards and one TD for Gronkowski.
Cook has been one of the main factors to how the Raiders got past their identity crisis on offense. And the Patriots don’t have a defense that can stop anyone, much less a freak athlete TE. The Raiders don’t have much of a defense themselves but could have the perfect guy to cover Gronkowski.
Obi Melifonwu, the Raiders’ second-round pick, will be assigned to cover Gronkowski Sunday. The former cornerback is 6’4”, 225 pounds with long arms and runs a 4.4 40 while he still has the feet and hips of a CB. The Patriots don’t have such an athlete to run down the field with Gronkowski. This isn’t to say Melifonwu will shut Gronkowski out but he’s a better match-up for him than anyone the Patriots have for Cook.
So I’m looking to see if the Raiders win the battle of the TE position over the Patriots.
Editor’s note: Levi Damien contributed to this article.