If Rob Gronkowski is set to miss another stretch of games due to injury, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ red zone offense could be in some trouble. Two weeks into the 2021 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tight end Rob Gronkowski looked like the old, prime version of himself.
Having caught four touchdown passes in half the number of games, Gronkowski played a massive part in the Bucs scoring 79 points in two contests.
And just like that, Gronkowski – Tampa Bay’s top red zone weapon – was gone.
Gronkowski suffered a significant rib injury against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, which proceeded to sideline the 32-year-old for the next four games. In that stretch, his replacements, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, combined for just ten receptions on 29 targets for 144 yards and one touchdown.
Things were looking up when Gronkowski returned to play against the New Orleans Saints this past week. The return was short-lived, however, as Gronkowski took the field for all of six snaps before aggravating his injury with a twist, suffering from back spasms connected to the rib wound.
“I have no idea with his back. It just spasmed up,” head coach Bruce Arians described Gronkowski’s setback before confirming it was connected to the rib injury. Asked if the tight end would be healthy after the team’s Week 9 bye, Arians responded: “We don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.”
It’s fair to wonder now, though, if the injuries are beginning to catch up with one of the greatest tight ends of all time. If that is the case, the Buccaneers have a big problem to worry about.
Wide receiver Mike Evans, who stands at 6-foot-5, is an ideal red zone target that eases the blow of losing Gronkowski for an extended period of time. In spite of Gronkowski’s absence throughout the year, the Bucs remain a top-ten league in red zone touchdown percentage at No. 8 (67.6%).