Will Hill Key To Stopping 'Nasty' Rob Gronkowski


One of the last things the Ravens want to see Saturday night in New England is the fabled "Gronk Spike."

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a force to be reckoned with.

Ravens safety Will Hill may be the man for the job.

Hill locked up big, playmaking Saints tight end Jimmy Graham earlier this year. Now Hill will have perhaps an even tougher challenge this Saturday in Gillette Stadium.

"He's one of the best," Head Coach John Harbaugh said of Gronkowski.

"He's big; he's fast; he's tough; he's nasty. He gets the ball in his hands and he wants to punish people – run after catch, he's trying to run everybody he can over. He's just a gifted guy, and they get him the ball, and they get him the ball quickly, and they give him the ball downfield."

Gronkowski sat out the last two meetings between the Ravens and Patriots (Week 16 last year, AFC championship in 2012) due to forearm injuries.

He returned this year with monster stats, posting 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a score in each of the last three games he played.

Hill said he's not sure if he'll draw Gronkowski one-on-one, but he's hoping so.

"You want to play against the best and he's one of the best out there," Hill said. "I'm always up for a challenge."

Hill held Graham to just six catches for 47 yards in Week 12. Graham did score two touchdowns, but one was from 2-yards out in the final minutes of a blowout. Hill made the biggest play with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown on a pass intended for Graham.

Hill's strategy against the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham was to be physical at the line of scrimmage so the former basketball player couldn't get a free release and make leaping catches. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski is a bit shorter, but plays with more power.

Thus, Hill isn't sure if he'll take the same press strategy against Gronkowski.

"I know they watch film just like I watch film," Hill said. "I've got to take a different approach this game and see what I can come up with. He's a big guy. You've got to come with a different approach."

On Tuesday, Harbaugh was asked whether the Ravens would concede production from Gronkowski if they can stop the Patriots' other receivers.

"No. Absolutely not," Harbaugh said. "We have to stop everybody. If you do that, they'll just go up and down the field with the one player."

The Patriots have other viable receiving threats. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was rumored to be of interest to the Ravens in free agency last offseason, caught a team-high 92 passes for 972 yards and four touchdowns. Another free-agent addition, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, caught 74 passes for 953 yards and seven scores.

Meanwhile, the Ravens secondary is feeling confident after a strong finish to the regular season.

"Right now, we're all hot, fired up, ready to play some ball," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "We're all looking to get some turnovers in the back end. If we compete, we'll get some balls."

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