The Texans know what to expect from Rob Gronkowski.
They know what they need to do to slow him down.
But knowing, and doing, are two different things, as cornerback Johnathan Joseph explained about the Patriots tight end.
“He’s going to make catches here and there,” Joseph said. “Some spectacular, some you gotta let him earn. But at the same time you can’t give him anything cheap. You can’t give him those run-and-catch plays to where he’s making 30 and 40-yard gains.”
When they last saw Gronkowski, he pulled down eight catches for 89 yards and a score last season in Week 3. The Patriots won that by a 36-33 margin. His long reception on the day was a 22-yarder in the first quarter, which he actually fumbled out of bounds. Joseph said the Texans must “challenge him each and every play” and make life tough for him.
In four career games against the Texans, Gronkowski's caught 18 passes for 303 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
For head coach Bill O’Brien, the reasons Gronkowski is so effective are many.
“Where do you want me to start,” O’Brien said. “He’s 6’7, 265 pounds, he’s got excellent athletic ability, he can run like a wide receiver, he’s got great flexibility, he’s tough, everybody talks about his range, his ability to catch any ball that’s throw to him. He’s a really hard guy to match up against. He’s a consistent performer. He’s probably one of the best tight ends, obviously in the game right now, maybe in the history of the game.”
For safety Justin Reid, it’ll be his first time to see the All-Pro. The rookie out of Stanford has studied the videos on Gronkowski, and said he knows his hands will be full helping defend him.
“To be able to play against Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski at the same time, it’s going to be an incredible experience for me,” Reid said. “So we’re gameplanning, we’re going to figure things out. We want to learn what his strengths are and try and take those away.”
Gronkowski remembers the Patriots’ Week 1 loss at home to Kansas City last year, and said he and his teammates intend to come out of the proverbial gates quickly.
“We’re always trying to start fast, no matter what part of the year it is, no matter what game it is,” Gronkowski said. “You always want to start fast and you always want to try and get that win. So, we’ll be going as hard as possible to get a W this week, and also we’ll be trying to start fast. That’s how everyone wants to start.”
Kickoff between the Texans and Patriots is at noon CT in Gillette Stadium.