Rob Gronkowski Injury: Patriots tight end "50/50" to return against Buccaneers

Al Messerschmidt

Rob Gronkowski's recovery from back and forearm surgeries is almost complete in time to face the Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against an injury-depleted New England Patriots team on Sunday, but Tom Brady's best receiver could return in time for the game.

With Dashon Goldson likely to be suspended, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to find a way to stop the best tight end in the NFL. They were burned heavily by Jimmy Graham last week, until they decided to put Mark Barron on him in coverage for most of the second half. Graham had 156 yards at the half, but he was limited to just 23 in the second half.

The Buccaneers may be forced to use Mark Barron more in a deep safety role alongside Ahmad Black if Goldson can't suit up, which will severely limit their coverage options. The Bucs ran a lot of three-safety sets against the Saints, which they won't be able to do effectively with Ahmad Black, Mark Barron and Keith Tandy being their only safeties.

The good news is that even if Gronkowski does return, he won't be fully healthy and his effectiveness should be limited. Couple that with the fact that none of the Patriots receivers could get on the same page with Tom Brady or indeed, catch footballs, and the Buccaneers pass defense should have a shot against the future Hall of Famer.

The Buccaneers face off against the Patriots on Sunday, September 22, 1:00 p.m. ET.

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