It probably wasn't realistic to expect Rob Gronkowski to return to his Hall of Fame form, after a year away from the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end hasn't been a huge factor so far this year, even given his existing chemistry with Tom Brady.
Through two games, Gronkowski has just two catches for 11 yards, on four total targets. Both receptions came in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. He had just one target against the Carolina Panthers last weekend.
“We haven’t had that many red-zone opportunities and I don’t see him running 40 yards past people any more,” head coach Bruce Arians said this week. “We brought him in to play tight end. If that means no catches, that means no catches.”
Gronkowski is obviously used to a much higher workload than that. With 7,872 career yards and 79 touchdowns, he is arguably the most dangerous pass catching tight end of all time, and was an elite blocker with the New England Patriots as well. When asked about his poor start, he mentioned multiple times that he's a "blocking tight end" now.
He says that even in this reduced offensive role, he's happy to be back playing football, and that he "knows what he signed up for." He did hint that he could be involved more in the offense on a week to week basis.
Tom Brady has plenty of weapons to choose from, both at the wide receiver and tight end positions with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aside from Gronk, O.J. Howard has five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown from the tight end spot. Cameron Brate, who had great chemistry with former Bucs QB Jameis Winston, hasn't been targeted in two games.
Wide receiver Mike Evans leads the team with eight catches and 14 targets, for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
“Well, I think we all have a lot of things we’ve got to [work on],” Brady said earlier this week when asked about Rob Gronkowski, per ProFootballTalk. “We’re going to be improving from the time we started until the time we finish the season. I don’t think we can be discouraged by certain things. Some weeks it’s going to be some guy’s week. Other weeks it’s going to be other guys’ weeks. Everyone is working hard at practice to try to find their spot [and] their role.”
The Bucs are on the road to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The game kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET.