Patriots Offense Will Change With Release Of Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez is no longer a New England Patriot. With the widespread news coverage of his arrest, the Patriots must now look at the team, including how the offense now recovers.
While a good amount of tight ends such as Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, and Michael Hoomanawanui remain on the roster, none of them can replace what Hernandez brought to the field. In fact, there are few players in the NFL that have the versatility and athleticism of Hernandez.
The Patriots are masters of putting out the best players there, regardless of position. In 2007, the Patriots ran a lot of three and four wide receiver looks with a stacked receiving corps of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte Stallworth. In 2010, the Patriots ran a lot of two and three TE looks with Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Alge Crumpler.
Looking at the roster as it currently stands, it looks like the five best offensive skill players are Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Gronkowski. Assuming all of them are healthy to start the season, the Patriots should utilize that combination for the majority of their offensive snaps.
The group features a lot of speed and agility, but not a lot of size outside of Gronk. Vereen and Edelman are versatile enough to line up at multiple positions, while Amendola can play multiple spots at the WR position. Having two RBs on the field also helps create a mismatch as the team could run the ball with an extra back blocking or have both run a route. Vereen is the superior pass-catcher but Ridley has improved each year in his pass-catching.
Hopefully, rookie receivers like Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce will also be able to provide something to the team, especially a vertical presence. Fells, Ballard, and Hoomanawanui will also provide relief to Gronk and line up with him from time to time in two and maybe even three TE packages.
Josh McDanials and Bill Belichick throw new wrinkles into the Patriots offense every season, but this season will see more looks than before. With the season only a couple months away, there will be some early growing pains for the offense, especially considering four of the top five pass-catchers from last year are no longer on the team.
The Patriots should be fine in the long term as they have enough players at WR, TE, and RB to create enough mismatches on the field. The level of talent may have decreased, but the team is creative enough to replace that production and talent. Exactly how it will be done won’t be known until week one in Buffalo.