Tom Brady, Bucs should be thrilled that teams are doubting Rob Gronkowski

first_imgTom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are just getting warmed up as Buccaneers teammates, but there already are doubters trying to throw cold water all over the potential of them tapping into their best Patriots days together.A report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini on “Get Up” suggested that Gronkowski is already being perceived as not having much left in the tank at age 31. “With nine surgeries and 20 concussions, (defensive coordinators) are shaking their head going, ‘Yeah, Gronk was breaking down a lot when we last saw him on the field,'” Russini said. “In terms of concern for him being a threat — from what I can gather in my conversations — it’s not a high priority. They know that he’s vertical, he’s long. He’s going to run those seams.”This is not the Tom Brady, the Rob Gronkowski we’ve seen in the past, according to defensive coordinators I’ve talked to.”MORE: The best NFL free agents still available at each positionIt makes sense to think Gronkowski that isn’t the same player he once was in his prime because of injuries and Father Time. But underestimating his impact and importance to the offense is a big mistake.As coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich mesh their “no risk it, no biscuit” downfield passing game with Brady’s effective short-to-intermediate sensibilities, Gronkowski is dangerous in a different way — as a complementary piece and not the clear main man.A big mashup step was the decision to go with “12” personnel — two wide receivers, two tight ends as the Buccaneers’ base personnel. That means Gronkowski will be on the field consistently, with either O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate, at his position to support elite wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who are coming off a combined 153 catches, 2,490 yards and 17 TDs during Arians’ first season in Tampa Bay. During his time in New England, Gronkowski rarely had that level of complementary talent.Howard felt like a misfit in Arians’ typically non-tight end friendly system last season after showing Gronk-like field-stretching ability in his first two seasons. With Gronkowski in the mix and Godwin showing his slot domination in 2019, Howard will be better used vertically. The Bucs also have set up some matchup nightmares all over the field to help Brady.Evans is one of the league’s premier vertical threats outside, while Godwin is an exceptional good-hands route-runner with great run-after-the-catch skills. With Evans (6-5, 231 pounds), Godwin (6-1, 209 pounds), Howard (6-6, 251 pounds) and Gronkowski (6-6, 268 pounds), there is no defense equipped with the right size and speed at linebacker and in the secondary to handle all that.The skeptical defensive coordinators are forgetting that they had plenty of trouble covering the Bucs’ wideouts alone last season. Plus, Gronkowski needed that year off to rejuvenate and the Bucs can keep him further refreshed with Howard and Brate giving them league-best depth at tight end.Gronkowski also remained a game-changing receiver in his final season in 2018, despite the signs of wear and tear limiting his games and snaps. The Patriots were more calculated with his usage, but in the end deployed him well, down to his diving 29-yard catch that in essence won them Super Bowl 53.That’s also forgetting about Brady having his best downfield weaponry in quite some time and how he can still shred teams by exploiting the most favorable matchups. Between Evans, Godwin, Howard and Gronkowski, Brady has it good with his new go-to guy by committee.Brady is already carrying a massive chip on his shoulder in reuniting with Gronkowski on the Buccaneers, trying to prove he can lead a big-time winning offense away from the Patriots at 42. He preys on opponents underestimating him and those around him. Any talk of him or Gronk being washed up is just extra motivation.MORE: New NFL rules for 2020 Gronkowski’s value to Tampa Bay in 2020 will have little to do with the stats he puts up. He can be just as key in not being targeted, drawing coverage attention in some form away from Evans, Godwin and Howard. When he’s targeted, Brady can pick the right spots for Gronkowski to be successful.There’s bound to be more focus on thinking Gronkowski isn’t physically up to producing, but he’s also one of the sharpest players with the mental aspects of his receiving and blocking skills. If Gronk isn’t a “high priority,” then it would based more on teams being unable to afford to commit the coverage they would like to him. There will be further confusion caused by alignments and personnel groupings.No one is expecting Brady to throw for 50 TDs again or Gronkowski to go back to averaging more than a TD per game. But that doesn’t mean they won’t adjust to become somewhat scary together again with their respective familiarity and receiving support.last_img

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