“I’m here to block, baby!”
Okay, so it may not be music to Bucs fans ears who wanted to see the big guy catch the ball and thunder over people like he did in New England, but the role Rob Gronkowski is playing in Tampa’s offense is attributing to the Bucs winning games. You just may not see it because your eyes are so fixated on Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans (and oh my, is it pretty to watch).
First, let me start off by saying I thought the whole “I’m here to block, baby” statement was said with a little bit of sarcasm. Take it with a grain of salt coming from the ultimate jokester. I do think he’s also here to catch, but it’s a growing process as the season develops and he gets in better football shape. Bruce Arians’ offense is not made for tight ends, we all know that, but Brady will find Gronk when he wants and use him how he sees fit. And there will be game plans around Gronk, similar to Sunday where he led the team in targets.
But Gronk’s role as a blocker is so much bigger than most fans realize. Without a preseason, the Bucs No. 1 draft pick, right tackle Tristan Wirfs, didn’t get the chances to develop and get reps against NFL competition. Wirfs is a talent that is going to dominate at his position in the future, but like any rookie, there’s going to be growing pains and struggles early on, especially without a preseason. You saw some of that the first week.
Gronk’s presence on the right side helping Wirfs fend off defensive linemen and blitzes has given Brady that extra protection he needs. Now if only he would get some help from the left side…*cough* Donovan Smith *cough*…Brady wouldn’t have to wash his jersey after games.
The Bucs offense is making strides, little by little. Fortunately, their schedule sets up for them these first four weeks, playing Carolina, Denver, and the Los Angeles Chargers following their opening season loss to the Saints. A win this weekend, which would put them at 3-1 and atop the NFC South, is exactly where the team wants to be moving into the second quarter of the season and against some tougher competition with Chicago and Vegas awaiting on the road. Then comes the real meat of their schedule with games against Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and a rematch with Drew Brees.
This offense has slowly gotten better each week and should be light-years ahead of where it is now come Week 17. Given Brady’s growing rapport with Evans, Gronk, and Godwin and the breaking out of Scotty Miller, there are a lot of encouraging signs. It’s also encouraging to hear a quarterback be disappointed after a win. If Jameis Winston came out with a win, it was relief and happiness. When Brady won the last two Sundays, the first words out of his mouth were “We’re not where we need to be. We have a lot of work to do.” The Bucs plan is simple: to get better week in and week out and keep winning games.
Rob Gronkowski is part of that plan moving forward. He brings so much to the team in terms of leadership, skill, and also lightening up the locker room with his sarcasm and positivity. He’s going to help Wirfs a lot develop into a stud right tackle and make plays with his hands.
So for those who think he’s just a ghost out there brought in to bring laughs and extend his career by a couple years, think again. The Bucs are on the verge of starting 3-1 and are keeping Tom Brady healthy, and Rob Gronkowski is a monster part of that.