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Thinking of ways to deal with Rob Gronkowski has Jets a little queasy

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots runs

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots runs for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 18, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Devising ways to stop the Patriots' high-octane offense has Kacy Rodgers sick to his stomach.

Immediately after stepping behind the podium Thursday, the Jets' defensive coordinator was asked how he intends to contain Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. His response was priceless.

"You just made my stomach want to throw up," he said, laughing.

"But really, it's hard. It's very hard. When you look at them on tape, they pose a lot of problems. You kind of see it on their film with the matchup issues they create. They really do. The guy running the show is outstanding, so it's a difficult task."

The first-place Patriots (5-0) have the second-best overall offense in the NFL, behind the San Diego Chargers. They're averaging a league-leading 36.6 points per game and are second in passing yardage (325.2).

Bill Belichick has a host of weapons at his disposal, but the 6-6, 265-pound Gronkowski is one of the toughest matchups the Jets will face Sunday.

"I would say he's one of the hardest," Rodgers said of the three-time Pro Bowl tight end. "There's a lot of really good tight ends throughout the league, but when you start listing them, his name is going to be one, two or three. His size, his strength, his catching ability, his blocking ability, versatility, I could keep going on and on. He's a very talented player."

Jets coach Todd Bowles mentioned Gronkowski's size but also highlighted his intelligence. "His size overshadows everything," Bowles said. "I think what everybody fails to realize is he's a very smart player. He's just not big and tough, he's a smart player and he has very good feet. When you line up somebody like that at the wideout position, that's a tough cover."

So how have other teams covered Gronkowski this season?

"I don't see anybody covering him," Bowles said, laughing. "That's the problem . . . Everybody has tried everything. He's probably seen every coverage that he's going to see in his lifetime. Doubles, triples, vices, top, he's seen everything. You just have to be smart and be able to make your share of plays."

One of the challenges of game-planning for Gronkowski is the fact that it's hard to mimic his size and speed in practice. Rodgers said the coaching staff has resorted to using several players to imitate him, but 6-4, 235-pound practice-squad tight end Wes Saxton "has been running around for the speed," he said.

With so many targets to cover, Bowles and Rodgers must figure out the best way to deploy their players. That won't be an easy feat, considering slot cornerback Buster Skrine still is in the concussion protocol and Marcus Williams (hamstring) still is practicing on a limited basis.

Asked if the Jets have considered moving Darrelle Revis into the slot to cover Gronkowski or Edelman, Rodgers said: "That's the case right there when you have Edelman and Gronk. Where do you put your best cover guy? They create a lot of problems that way. For us, we're bouncing around a lot of different things and see what works for us."


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