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Patriots' Rob Gronkowski leads Week 3 snap report

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Two games into the season, we are already noticing surprising trends in playing time.

Below is a list of 10 players catching our eye for telling snap counts. Some are harbingers of rough seas ahead, while others suggest breakouts on the horizon.

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Gronk's slow start is no surprise after he was still favoring his surgically repaired knee in training camp. What is a surprise, though, is that blocking specialist Michael Hoomanawanui and catchless wide receiver Brandon LaFell have played more snaps -- 72 and 75, respectively -- than Gronkowski's 65. Until the All-Pro tight end regains pre-injury form, Tom Brady's aerial attack is stuck in dink-and-dunk mode.

2. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts: It was evident after the season opener that Nicks was behind Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton in the wide receiver pecking order. The troublesome sign in Week 2 was that No. 3 tight end Jack Doyle played more snaps -- 36 -- than Nicks' 29. A free agent in 2015, Nicks picked the wrong offensive scheme in which to rebuild his market value.

3. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints: There was concern entering the season that the playmaking rookie would be eased into the Saints' offense as a package player. Instead, he's played more snaps (107) than any wide receiver on the roster, including Marques Colston (105). It's an excellent sign for Cooks' Offensive Rookie of the Year chances that coach Sean Payton isn't inclined to take him off the field.

4. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers: Coach Mike McCarthy spent the offseason praising Jarrett Boykin as a breakout candidate. That faith lasted six quarters before McCarthy turned to his more talented second-round rookie. Adams played 36 snaps to Boykin's 34, replacing him as the No. 3 receiver in the second half versus the Jets. McCarthy acknowledged this week that Adams has "earned opportunities" and produced.

5. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs: Every time I see Kelce coming down with a catch and moving past linebackers and safeties, I can't help but think "Mini-Gronk." Kelce doesn't block like Gronkowski and isn't as big or as physical as a red-zone threat, but he's already the lone playmaker among the receiving corps. He should be featured in the Chiefs' passing attack. Instead, he has played just 50 snaps to 131 for Anthony Fasano.

6. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers: Our one hesitation in nominating Green as a candidate to "make the leap" was playing time. To this point he has equaled Kelce's 50 snaps -- versus 93 for Antonio Gates. We would like to see more two tight end sets at the expense of slot receiver Eddie Royal.

7. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles: Whereas the Chiefs and Chargers are sticking with the Old Guard at tight end, Chip Kelly is putting the ball in the hands of the more talented player. With 104 snaps, Ertz has equaled Brent Celek's (105) playing time. Kelly has been rewarded, too, as Julio Jones is the only player with more catches of at least 20 yards.

8. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: Coach Bruce Arians prescribed "60 percent" of the team's snaps to Brown's rookie-season count. Through two games, Brown has played 54 percent while catching five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

9. Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh Steelers: Dick LeBeau said in August that his second-round defensive end would play "an awful lot of snaps" this season. Given a top-10 overall draft grade by the Steelers, Tuitt has played just 24 snaps, fifth among defensive linemen. LeBeau's defense is 30th against the run, surrendering 174 yards per game. Perhaps it's time to turn to Tuitt.

10. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are easing the Honey Badger back in from his ACL and LCL surgery. Mathieu played just five snaps against the Giants in his 2014 debut.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the Falcons' lopsided win over the Bucs and previews every other game in Week 3.
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