FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker De'Vondre Campbell isn't going to back down from any one-on-one challenges against New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch.
"He's a good player, he's a mismatch, but I feel like I match up well against him," Campbell said confidently. "I expect his best; just what you would expect against anybody. It's going to be a good matchup. I'm looking forward to it."
Campbell and the Falcons didn't see Gronkowski in Super Bowl LI after Gronkowski underwent season-ending back surgery. But the four-time All-Pro has recovered and is fresh off a two-touchdown performance in this past Sunday's 24-17 win over the New York Jets.
The Falcons have groomed the 6-foot-3, 234-pound Campbell to use his speed and length against taller pass-catching tight ends. And the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski might be the best one Campbell encounters all season.
It doesn't deter Campbell.
"I feel like I match up well against anybody," Campbell said.
That's not to say the Falcons will ask Campbell to shadow Gronkowski in all scenarios. There might be times when the Falcons play zone, so the key will be stopping Gronkowski in his tracks if he does catch the ball rather than letting him rumble for yards after the catch.
Campbell, whose transition to strongside linebacker has meant more time setting the edge against the run and more opportunities rushing the passer, continues to mature in coverage. He learned from his crucial pass-interference penalty against then-Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett on the last drive of the Super Bowl, a penalty that set up the Patriots' game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Although Campbell had great success covering Detroit's Eric Ebron in Week 3 this season and felt he covered Miami tight end Julius Thomas well a few times this past Sunday, Campbell continues to strive for improvement.
"No, I'm still getting better," Campbell said. "I thought I had a really good game [Sunday] against tight ends, but I'm still improving. Staying in front, technique, really, because most of time, more than 90 percent of the time, I'm faster than them. So sometimes I tend to play fast and that's how I get beat. But I think it's just knowing who you're going against. That's probably the biggest thing I need to work on."
Gronkowski ranks 10th in the league with 401 receiving yards on 26 catches. He has four touchdowns and averages 15.4 yards per catch. Gronkowski's been targeted 38 times and has 19 first downs. In the red zone, he has three receptions on eight targets with two touchdowns.
"What makes [Gronkowski] great? I would say it’s the size and catch radius," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "A play could be really positioning the ball in a spot where only he could catch it. He has such good hands to go and make that play. They can split him out wide and use him as a receiver to have that kind of a matchup, or he can be on the line to try play-action and be [used] that way.
"He’s a pretty versatile guy. He can line up outside the formation and play like a receiver, and then play on the line like a tight end. When you have guys that can do both of those jobs, that’s pretty unusual. Lots of times when you have a tight end that’s split out, he’s a fast guy who can’t play on the line a lot. Oftentimes when you have a guy who is a big, strong blocker who can play on the line, you don’t have the ability to move out. He’s versatile enough to be both."