Everything has changed dramatically with the return of Rob Gronkowski to the playing field. After missing the first six weeks of the season, Gronk has already caught 19 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown.
Because of his presence, Tom Brady has sought out the big target to help alleviate some of the stress put on the other, less experienced receivers on the roster. Brady went so far as to target Gronkowski 17 times in his season debut.
It's clear that the fourth-year tight end is a critical component of this offense, especially considering the struggles the team has endured with him gone.
Michael Hoomanawanui has certainly helped in a limited capacity. The Patriots don't trust the veteran in too many passing situations, but he has caught nine of 12 passes thrown his way. He has struggled in run blocking, which has contributed to an increased role for Matthew Mulligan, who can be seen strictly as a blocking tight end.
While the position might as well have been nonexistent three weeks ago, it's very much now the focus with Gronkowski in the fold.