Should the Buccaneers be concerned about Rob Gronkowski?
When Rob Gronkowski announced he was coming out of retirement to to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL fans immediately envisioned him and Tom Brady adding to the dozens of touchdowns they connected for as teammates in New England. Through two weeks, that has not come close to happening.
The Bucs bounced back on Sunday with a convincing 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers, but Gronkowski was once again a non-factor in the passing game. Gronk did not catch a pass and was targeted just one time. That lone target was a pass thrown way behind Gronkowski, and he and Brady did not appear to be on the same page.
In Tampa’s Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Gronkowski caught just two passes for 11 yards. He was targeted three times by Brady.
Gronkowski has played more snaps than fellow tight end O.J. Howard through two games, but Howard has drawn nine targets and caught a touchdown pass. He has played a much bigger role in the passing game than Gronk early on.
No one wants to jump to conclusions after two games, but the reality is Gronkowski is nowhere near the same player he was three-plus years ago. The same was true in his final season with the Patriots. Gronkowski caught 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. He did that while missing three games, but he very rarely abused defenders. He looked particularly slow and like he was peeling himself off the turf every time he went down. He also had an extremely difficult time separating from defenders. If you keep a close eye on him with the Bucs, you will see some of the same tendencies.
Gronkowski made huge plays in the 2018 playoffs for the Patriots, and those plays were a big reason they won another Super Bowl. However, the reports about his health after that season were a huge red flag. A year off may have helped his ailments heal, but Gronk clearly has not discovered the fountain of youth.
As long as he can stay healthy, the big plays will come for Gronkowski. But anyone who is expecting to see the 2014 or 2015 Gronk simply because the future Hall of Famer took a year off is going to be extremely disappointed.