Rob Gronkowski flexes muscles for Patriots with big plays against Jaguars


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USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes ranks and discusses the best offensive units in football.
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New addition Brandin Cooks is getting a lot of the buzz for the New England Patriots, but it’s an old staple who trounced the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Tuesday joint practice session.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski has returned and made several big plays in Tuesday’s practice after suffering a season-ending back injury in Week 12 last year.

He caught two touchdowns in full-team, 11-on-11 drills and hauled in another three in seven-on-seven reps. He added another three scores in one-on-one drills when he was routinely lined up against Jaguars safeties and linebackers.

During one play in 11-on-11 two-minute reps, Gronkowski was lined up outside along the left sideline. Facing one-on-one coverage, he shuffled his feet to throw off his defender after the snap, and then shot upfield along the sideline. Quarterback Tom Brady lofted a well-placed ball on the fade route, and Gronkowski cradled it in his arms for the score.

“Those guys are good players,” Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said when asked about Gronkowski and backup tight end Dwayne Allen. “You’re always pretty impressed with big guy (Gronkowski).”

More: Patriots defense bottling up Blake Bortles, Jaguars in practice

More: Patriots WR Brandin Cooks roasts Jaguars secondary in practice

In May, the Patriots restructured Gronkowski’s contract in a move that includes incentives for staying on the field. after he has missed 24 regular-season games in his seven-year career.

Gronkowski caught 25 passes for 540 yards and three touchdowns in eight games last season.

“Gronk’s really worked hard,” Brady said on Friday. “He’s gotten older and I’m proud of him for the effort he’s put in this offseason. He always puts in a lot of effort. He’s got a great work ethic, so hopefully it really pays off for him.

“Again, it’s a contact sport, and you’ve got to prepare yourself as best you can for what we’re about to face. We put ourselves in harm way a lot. To me, you’ve got to be proactive about how you condition your body to be prepared for that. He’s done a great job of that, as have a lot of guys. Hopefully, we can make it a great season.”

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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