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Broncos CB Chris Harris says Rob Gronkowski is NFL’s toughest receiver to cover

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The Patriots All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has a fan out in Denver.

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski broke out of his shell last week against the Browns and he’ll continue to get better as his health returns. Gronk remains on the injury report with a hamstring injury and opposing defenses are terrified of when he’s 100%- and when he takes his came to another level.

Denver Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. might not be scared, but he believes that Gronkowski is the most dominant offensive player in the league when healthy.

Harris wrote about the five most difficult players to cover in the NFL for The Players Tribune and his AFC-centric list included Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Colts WR T.Y. Hilton, Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins, and Bengals WR A.J. Green. Harris also mentions Patriots WR Julian Edelman as a “another great slot receiver.”

But it was Gronkowski that topped his list.

“Yeah, he’s technically a tight end,” Harris writes, “but I’m including Gronk, because when I think about the toughest guys to line up against, he’s the first name that comes to mind. Yes, he’s physically bigger than everybody. That’s a given. But the thing people don’t appreciate enough is that he’s got amazing hands. What makes him so difficult is that he’s 6′ 6″, 265, but he also has the route running ability and hands of a wide receiver.”

When reading through the list, it’s clear that Harris values versatility in the opposition. If a player can align anywhere on offense, or if they can attack the shallow and deep areas of the field, or if they can play across the middle, it makes them all the more difficult to cover. Gronkowski can do it all.

What makes Gronkowski tougher than the rest is that there’s no easy way to defend him.

“The best way to defend him [Gronkowski] is to not let him get started,” Harris notes. “You gotta put hands on him early so he has to stop and start again. The thing is, you can’t go overboard and play too physical. Because the officials are gonna let Gronk play football. You don’t want to get into a wrestling match with him. When you bump him, you have to keep him at arm’s length. If you get too aggressive and get up in his face, he’s going to use the 50-50 battle to push off on you, and then you’re in trouble.”

Harris included one play that comes to mind when he thinks of Gronkowski and it involves the tight end showing fearlessness, agility, and concentration in the middle of the field.

“This was from two years ago in New England,” Harris writes. “Gronk runs the seam route and catches it with one hand between three defenders. We actually played it well, but Brady fit it into the window and Gronk made an impossible catch.

“At the end of the clip, check me out at the bottom of the screen putting my hands on my head, like, Are you serious?”

Gronkowski is not yet back to his old self, but he’s close and he’s blocking better than ever. The Patriots play the Broncos in week 15 and Harris will get a close look at Gronk in action.

Harris actually mentioned the Patriots in defeat this past week. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16 thanks to some smart game planning by Atlanta.

The Falcons “relentlessly pounded at the soft underbelly of the Broncos’ interior defensive line” with a grinding rushing attack, and isolated “Denver linebackers Brandon Marshall and [Todd Davis] in man-to-man coverage against the Atlanta backs, with [Tevin Coleman] torching them for four catches and 132 yards.”

“We haven’t seen that scheme since the AFC championship. That’s Patriots all day,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said, via the Denver Post.

Gronkowski and the Patriots are going to get healthier and they’ll be ready to grind away at the Broncos linebackers later in the season.