Friday, January 22, 2021

What can we expect from Rob Gronkowski in 2020?

There’s been lots of speculation since the Rob Gronkowski trade about just how good will he be. Will he be in football shape, Gronk shape, or retired 31-year-old party-animal shape? With one year out of the game for his body to heal, Gronk could be in his best shape for a few seasons despite not playing.

With all his ailments given time to heal he could be a genuine threat to every defense in the league. Or he could be out-of-shape, slow, and unable to take the pounding he will likely receive every time he takes the field.

With 3,113 yards after the catch in his career, Rob Gronkowski boasts 521 catches, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns in 9 seasons. He has an astonishing 68.3% of targets caught, 396 first downs, and only 4 career fumbles.

When healthy and focussed Rob Gronkowski is almost unplayable © AP Photo/Steven Senne
When healthy and focussed Rob Gronkowski is almost unplayable © AP Photo/Steven Senne

While he is almost guaranteed to be the recipient of a large dose of load-management this season, particularly in the early weeks, what can we expect from one of the best tight ends ever to lace up his boots?

Will the year off help Rob Gronkowski?

Twice in his career, Gronk has missed significant time, 2016 when he played 352 snaps, and 2013 when he played 385. In both of the seasons following that missed time he had 1,000-yard seasons, and in 2014 he added 12 touchdowns, and in 2018 he scored 8.

Now clearly the situations are different this year, but there are also some similarities. It was clear for the last few seasons that Rob Gronkowski was playing hurt. His knees, back, shoulder, you name it Gronk seemed to have hurt it.

So while we will sit here and say it’s not the same as when he came back from his injuries, it kind of is. But not exactly. If we look at Gronk’s career arc, we see a patently obvious spell from 2011 to 2017 where he was elite to the level of being almost unplayable.

In 2018, his last year in the league he was average with 47 catches, 682 yards, and 3 touchdowns. But don’t forget he made the catch that turned Super Bowl 53 that turned that game from a 3-3 tie to a Patriots win.

Now I hear you all the way at the back, “Yeah but he’s been out of the league a year”. So? I’m not saying we’re going to see elite Rob Gronkowski turn out in a Buccs uniform week 1 and blow the league away like he did in 2011 when he went off for 17 touchdowns.

But average Gronk was good enough to turn a Super Bowl. Average Gronk was hurt. If we’ve learned anything from his previous history, time off makes Gronk stronger. Now he’s 31, and the years of hits have taken their toll on his body, that’s one of the reasons you get him so cheap in that trade.

But after one year off, Rob Gronkowski will be healthier and that makes him a difference-maker. He doesn’t have to catch every ball. He’s arguably only never played with a genuine number one receiver in his career. If you have to double Gronk with a safety over the top Evans and Godwin get better off the bat.

So don’t judge this season’s Gronk just by his stats because he will make the whole offense better. His rapport with Brady will mean he can hit the ground running, and while he may not be the old Gronk I’ve got a feeling he will still be a beast that makes everyone around him that little bit better.

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