Each day leading up to Super Bowl LII, we're going to take a look at a key matchup between the Eagles and the New England Patriots.
Today, it's safety Malcolm Jenkins vs. tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots were able to overcome a 14-3 deficit against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter after a dirty hit by Jaguars safety Barry Church.
New England has won without Gronkowski in the past, but there's no denying the effect it has on the offense.
Over the course of his career, the Patriots average 3.6 fewer points per game with Gronkowski out of the lineup. Quarterback Tom Brady's passer rating is a whopping 16.2 points higher with Gronkowski in action. Gronkowski missed two games this season (one due to injury, another suspension) and those two games were the Patriots' two lowest-scoring outputs of the season.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calls a much different game with Gronkowski out of the lineup. The Patriots are more balanced utilizing 11 personnel (one back, one tight end), two tight end, and 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) sets more often with Gronkowski as opposed to relying predominately on 11 personnel.
No quarterback had a higher passer rating throwing to a tight end this season than Brady to Gronkowski with a mark of 117.3 (8 touchdowns, 2 interceptions). Gronkowski was New England's leader in both receptions (69) and receiving yards (1,084). Six of Gronkowski's touchdowns came in the red zone.
Malcolm Jenkins earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl this season after leading the team with 119 tackles, the second-highest total of his career.
Jenkins is called upon to do a little of everything in the Eagles' defense. He can matchup on receivers inside with his background as a cornerback. He can play close to the line of scrimmage as an extra linebacker.
He hasn't been able to roam as the single-high safety as much this season and that's a reason he doesn't have as many flashy plays, although he did record two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a recovery.
Gronkowski is going to win the size battle at 6-6, 265 pounds compared to Jenkins at 6-0, 204 pounds. Jenkins will need to rely on film study and his coverage skills to help keep one of the game's best tight ends of all time in check.
Previous key matchups: CB Patrick Robinson vs. WR Brandin Cooks