We're officially in the first week of the 2020 NFL season. The Chiefs and Texans will get things kicked off in just a few days, and the rest of the league will follow a few days after that. Of course, that means we're getting the first official depth charts of the year.
On Monday, the Buccaneers released their first depth chart, and it had both Rob Gronkowsi and O.J. Howard listed as starters at tight end, with the Bucs operating in 12 personnel. (In personnel packages, the first number refers to the number of running backs on the field and the second number is the number of tight ends. So, 12 personnel just means one running back and two tight ends.)
Gronk obviously has a lot of familiarity with Tom Brady from their time together in New England, but he also did not play at all last season, lost a ton of weight during his year away and had to put it back on to get back into football shape, and was not at the peak of his powers for most of 2019, either. Howard has long been a tantalizing prospect, but he has yet to put things together on the field and last season was arguably his least effective yet.
Still, Brady loves utilizing tight ends over the middle of the field, so there should be a role in this offense for both players. Gronkowski's skill as a blocker should also help Tristan Wirfs' transition to the NFL, as they can use one of the best blocking tight ends of all time to help him in pass protection and in the run game on occasion.
And it's not like Brady doesn't have other passing-game options elsewhere on the roster. If they are in 12 personnel as their base, the Bucs will still have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for Brady to throw to on the outside. When they transition to three- and four-receiver looks, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, and/or Tyler Johnson will come into the mix.