By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Rob Gronkowski had to deal with a big challenge in his return to the field last Sunday against the Jets' Jamal Adams. It's not going to get any easier on Sunday against the Vikings, when he's likely to see plenty of reigning All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and using every bit of it on the field, Smith is as skilled, smart and tough as they come at the safety position in the NFL. He can contribute in a variety of ways, but it would make sense to see him lined up against Gronk a lot on Sunday.
"Smith is all over the field," said Gronkowski. "He’s blitzing, he’s covering, he’s down a lot in the run game so it’s definitely very similar and he’s a good player. We played him before and he always stands out."
Bill Belichick had even higher praise for Smith. He compared him to effing Ed Reed - in that he's hard to read pre-snap and that Tom Brady is going to have to know exactly where he is on every play.
"[Smith] does an excellent job of timing his movement based on either the quarterback’s cadence, the offensive formation, motion, the play clock, all those combination of things," said Belichick during his Wednesday press conference. "He does an excellent job of using some or all of them to put the offense in a difficult position to account for them or to not account for them when he’s blitzing and so forth. He’s really good."
The Vikings have enough to worry about with guys like Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen up front, and linebacker Anthony Barr in the middle. But Smith is the guy who's going to be all over the place, and likely in Gronk's grill for much of the game.
If Gronk can come up with a big day against Smith, it'll be a hugely promising sign for what the tight end could deliver down the stretch. He should be getting his toughest test of the season.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].