As the drama and anticipation builds for the Jaguars first appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 18 years, there are certain players and match-ups that jump out. One that is intriguing immediately is how Jacksonville and defensive coordinator Todd Wash will attempt handle/contain the best tight end weapon in football, Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski is arguably Tom Brady’s favorite target, especially in the Red Zone and goal to go situations just like his TD catch last week in the playoff win over the Titans. He has nine TDs on the season, now, and a staggering 76 for his seven year career, as a tight end.
So, “Gronk” is a problem, and the Jaguars need a solution or maybe, a couple of them.
It’s likely that Wash and the Jags will try several tactics and personnel to contain him, especially on 3rd downs and when the Pats get close to scoring. One obvious option is use a linebacker, like Telvin Smith and assign him to cover Gronkowski for at least some of the time, as he goes downfield. He can also use safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson to help cover the deep middle.
The more compelling name to perhaps take on the assignment for some or most of Sunday in Foxboro, is brash defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey, a corner who was named to his first Pro Bowl this year in his second season, is big enough at 6-1 210 lbs. to at least stay with and bring down Gronkowski in the open field.
But the WWE trashing talking style that Ramsey brings might be an “edge” that the Jaguars can take advantage of Sunday. After all, Ramsey got under the skin of Bengals WR A.J. Green so quickly in the first half, that Green took swings at Ramsey and Ramsey back at him, as both were ejected in the October meeting.
And Gronk is volatile himself, he was flagged for a brutal cheap shot hitting the Bills Tre’Davious White while he was defenseless on the ground in the New England win in December. And, Gronk got suspended for the Patriots Monday Night Game in Miami…which they lost without him.
So, there is potential for “fireworks” from this kind of match-up, even if it’s just for a few plays.
Gronkowski spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon, but the specific question about who might match up with him on Sunday was not asked:
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 17, 2018
Now, the likelihood is that Ramsey will stay with receivers like the speedy Brandin Cooks or “go to” underneath specialist WRs like Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola for most of the game.
But, if the Jaguars want to try to neutralize Gronkowski, some man to man with Ramsey on him would be fun to see.
Now, we wait for it.
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