Rob Gronkowski is one of, if not the most unstoppable players in the NFL when he’s healthy.
And as such, the key to beating the New England Patriots often lies in stopping — or more realistically — slowing down Gronkowski.
So with the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars looming, the question remains: can the Jaguars’ defense slow down Gronkowski and Tom Brady?
Ahead of Championship Sunday, ESPN talked to multiple NFL coaches, players and executives to get their thoughts on the four remaining teams, including discussing how the Jaguars can try and cover the star tight end.
Here’s what they had to say:
“What’s the answer for the tight end? That’s always the first question. Because when you double him and they spread you out and start throwing to backs, that’s the issue. You can try some double-teams on Gronk but can’t just stay in the same coverage — mix it up with man, zone, pressure. Jalen Ramsey is capable of helping out on Gronk, but the problem is they move Gronk around so much. That could disrupt what Jacksonville wants to do with their corners as a whole. I’d be shocked if they put Ramsey on [him] a bunch. They might disguise looks so he ends up on Ramsey’s side. But you’ll probably see a lot of Johnathan Cyprien on him, maybe one of their linebackers because they are athletic enough.”
The Patriots have not lost a game that Gronkowski played in since Week 4 against the Carolina Panthers, and while Telvin Smith and the rest of the Jags’ linebackers are versatile, it’s hard for us to see Gronkowski being slowed down by a linebacker.
Jacksonville’s physical defense has created issues for teams all season, but Gronkowski is a whole different beast. If Brady’s hand is OK, it might not matter who the Jags put on the dynamic pass-catcher.