When O.J. Howard was lost in the 4th game of the season in 2020 against the Los Angeles Chargers; he had 11 receptions for 146 yards and 2 TDs. When Rob Gronkowski was injured in the 3rd game of the season in 2021 against the Los Angeles Rams, he had 16 receptions for 184 yards and 4 touchdowns. So the moral of this story is: Don’t have your tight ends play against teams from Los Angeles.
On a serious note, it’s not just the Bucs. Tight end is a high injury position league-wide, and even if Gronk had decided to return — Cade Otton and Ko Kieft will play. So all the standing in a puddle of urine crying about rookie tight ends playing changes nothing. Barring injuries to Cade Otton and Ko Kieft as well, they will suit up for the Bucs in 2022. However unfortunate, some currently showing their despair and disgust will have this indignity to suffer. I’ll ask that they hold their noses a bit.
Here’s the reality: Jason Licht will add a veteran tight end, and he may get hurt too, and the adage “depth beats stars” has never been more philosophically sound for a GM. In 2017 as rookies, O.J. Howard played 655 offense and special teams snaps, and Antony Auclair played 272 offense and special teams snaps. Rookie tight ends play in this league.
Gronk’s intangibles are rare, and he’ll be missed. After the punctured lung suffered at the hands of Terrell Lewis in game 3, he scored two (2) touchdowns the rest of the season. The Bucs have the blocking and offensive solutions to score. Bottom line, the Bucs aren’t in Dire Straits and didn’t keep their ‘Money for Nothing’. Licht and Bowles will upgrade the group and field an outstanding team. Go Bucs!