Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians isn’t too concerned about Rob Gronkowski’s slow start. Through two games, Gronkowski has just 2 catches for 11 yards. That represents a fairly significant decline for the future Hall of Famer, but Arians isn’t concerned about Gronkowski’s low numbers.
Why? Because Arians isn’t too concerned with forcing the ball Gronkowski’s way. If the game and defensive coverage leads to Gronkowski, 31, getting open, he’ll get catches, according to Arians.
Bruce Arians on Rob Gronkowski: "We haven't had that many red-zone opportunities and I don't see him running 40 yards past people any more ... We brought him in to play tight end. If that means no catches, that means no catches."— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 23, 2020
Full Bruce Arians quote on Gronkowski: "We brought him in to just play tight end. If that means no catches, that means no catches. If it means 10 catches, it means 10 catches because he's open and that's where the ball goes."— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 23, 2020
The Bucs haven’t seen that scenario thus far, which is how Arians was able to write off Gronkowski’s slow start.
What can Rob Gronkowski bring to the Buccaneers?
Arians’ more revealing quote may have to do with how he sees Gronkowski as a player. Arians mentioned the team hasn’t had “that many red-zone opportunities.” Arians added, “I don’t see him running 40 yards past people any more.” That seems to suggest the Bucs view Gronkowski as more of a short-yardage option. That could mean they see him running more short routes, like curls or ins, as opposed to posts. That type of usage can still be effective — see Jason Witten’s career — but Gronkowski used to be a tight end who could dominate defenders and beat linebackers down the field. The Bucs may not see that as his role any longer.
While all of that can be read in a negative manner, the Bucs are still giving Gronkowski the majority of playing time at the position. Gronkowski has led the team in tight end snaps in each of the first two weeks. O.J. Howard is being mixed in too, but Gronkowski has played more.
As long as Gronkowski is on the field, he’ll have opportunities to produce. A big game or two could still be coming for Gronkowski, but it’s important to keep in mind he’s not the primary threat in the team’s offense.
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