NFL.com’s Albert Breer talked to several NFL Executives about the state of the Patriots after the Aaron Hernandez situation. Aside from losing him, the Patriots are still trying to get their other tight end Rob Gronkowski back in the mix. Meanwhile the Patriots are trying to recover from losing their leading receiver, Wes Welker.
It’s a tall order.
“This one’s a bigger blow for them,” one NFC personnel director said, “because no one knows the availability of Gronk. Gronk’s a big-time weapon, and Aaron was the guy they moved all around the formation. At receiver, they got rid of just about all their top guys, Danny (Amendola) is the only proven commodity. (Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels) is brilliant, and he can maneuver them, but this will hurt them.”
Another NFL executive, this time from the AFC is downplaying the effects of the Patriots depleted receiving and tight end groups.
“It’s a significant concern, but the Patriots won games before those tight ends got there,” an AFC personnel executive said. “If Amendola stays healthy, it could be an even exchange with Welker there, and outside receivers have come and gone and it hasn’t affected the quarterback. The key element is Gronk. You get him back in Week 1, you have that presence in the middle of the field for the quarterback. That’s a considerable factor.
“But what made the Patriots so hard to defend is they had two players in the middle that were huge matchup problems at tight end, and no one had the components on defense to deal with both of them at once. You just didn’t find defenses with the resources to deal with both of them. They only have one now.”
But Hernandez’s absent from the slot will put Amendola more at risk as he has to play more snaps.
“Where they had wiggle room in the past, it’s not there,” the AFC exec said. “If either of those guys aren’t available, that’s a significant blow.”
“It’s gonna really hurt them,” the NFC exec added. “Three of the quarterback’s four best weapons are gone, if you throw (Brandon) Lloyd in there. The run game is solid, but how much of that was because of how well they throw it? The defense is just OK. … I think they’re average, depending on when Gronk gets back. Teams are gonna be biting at the bit to play them early on.“