If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are to accomplish their goal of "going for two" - to repeat as Super Bowl champions this year - a handful of select players will have to be at the top of their games all season long.
Therefore, AllBucs has compiled a list of the ten most important Buccaneers entering the 2021 season, ranked from No. 10 down to the most crucial of the bunch at No. 1. Although this list is unique, the most important Buc - who will be revealed at a later date - may seem fairly obvious.
But, who else needs to make a large impact this year in order for Tampa Bay to reach, and win, Super Bowl LVI? The list begins with an offensive contributor known for his blocking skills, impressive pass-catching abilities at his age, and of course, for creating a few laughs along the way.
That player is tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Most important Buccaneers, No. 10: Rob Gronkowski
As most are aware, Gronkowski decided to dig his cleats out of his closet over a year ago and emerged from a one-year retirement to rejoin his former New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, in Tampa Bay.
As such, Gronkowski had some rust to shake off. He made an immediate impact as a blocker after earning the week one starting role, allowing zero sacks and only four pressures in the regular season on over 100 pass protection reps as well as eliminating the edge in the run game consistently.
However, as a receiver, it took Gronk some time to become acclimated within head coach Bruce Arians' offense and to get back up to speed. It was in Gronkowski's sixth game as a Buc where he scored his first touchdown of the season, and in the first five games combined, he only hauled in 12 receptions for 140 yards.
A switch flipped in and after week six, though. Gronkowski caught touchdown passes in three consecutive games and hauled in numerous receptions per game in every matchup other than two through the rest of the season. He also re-established himself as a deep threat with nine receptions of 20+ yards (including the postseason) and two 40+ yard catches in a three-game stretch in the middle of the season.
And to add a cherry on top, Gronkowski memorably was on the receiving end of two touchdowns across his six catches in Super Bowl LV.
The question is, can the 32-year-old tight end pick up where he left off entering 2021?
Gronkowski's blocking presence is crucial in order for Tampa Bay to stretch its runs to the outside, which is something that the team could benefit from more often with faster running backs in Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard toting the rock compared to power runs to the interior. A consistent strength of Gronkowski's game, we don't expect much if any regression when it comes to Gronk taking on edge rushers, defensive linemen and linebackers.
When it comes to pass-catching, although he may be slowing down at his age, we'd expect Gronkowski to remain a trusted target of Brady's given their long-standing connection. Even if it means Gronkowski primarily serves as a check-down or short-to-intermediate target with occasional deep passes going his way, his hands can be trusted and his big frame is useful for breaking tackles to create yards after the catch.
Gronkowski's ability to separate from defenders in coverage is starting to decrease, but his 6-foot-6 height and length make him an obvious target for continued contested-catch situations. As things stand, he can be trusted to still come down with a 50-50 ball in more than 50 percent of those situations.
The Buccaneers own a crowded and talented tight end room with Cameron Brate and a healthy O.J. Howard in the fold. But make no mistake, Gronk is the most well-rounded of the bunch. And given his chemistry with Brady, it would be unreasonable to leave him off of this list, as Brady's individual success in red and pewter is the be-all and end-all as Tampa Bay aims to "go for two."
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offseason updates, and other news and analysis.