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The Patriot Way: Moving On After Hernandez

Matthew Tufts |
June 26, 2013 | 6:31 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Aaron Hernandez's release was the latest blow to the Patriots receiving corps. (Wikimedia Commons)
Aaron Hernandez's release was the latest blow to the Patriots receiving corps. (Wikimedia Commons)
Following the arrest of TE Aaron Hernandez on murder charges and his subsequent release, the Patriots find themselves possibly without their top five pass catchers of the past year. Wes Welker departed for Denver, Brandon Lloyd was released earlier in the year, Danny Woodhead went to San Diego, and Rob Gronkowski's status is questionable at best after his fifth surgery in the past seven months.

The Patriots pioneered their version of a two-TE offense with Hernandez and Gronkowski leading the way. With one gone and another in question, what will Belichick do? I have always thought Tim Tebow had the build of a TE, but that far from assures him significant time at that position. The key to the double TE formation the Patriots ran was its versatility. It opened up passing underneath for Wes Welker; Gronk and Hernandez could be sprung loose over the top; and don't forget the impact two men of their respective sizes has on the running game. It would be sad to see the Patriots dump that look, but it would also be very difficult to orchestrate it without Hernandez and potentially without Gronk.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen Brady engineer some offensive miracles with extraordinarily mediocre and lackluster receiving corps. (Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson anyone?) But there was something about this group that just seemed to work. Maybe it was watching 5' 8" Woodhead dart behind the massive blocks dished out by Gronk (you deserved it Terrell Suggs) or seeing the slight Welker draw three defenders underneath opening up a lane over the top for Gronk or Hernandez to go barreling down.

New England added slot receiver Danny Amendola and the consensus is that he will fill the hole Welker left in his absence. However, the Patriots are still going to be relying heavily on WR Julian Edelman. Edelman's largest contributions in the past have come on special teams, but he'll need to develop into a primary target for Brady this season. The Patriots' run game hadn't been a particularly strong point of the organization till this past year, but with the TE shakeup, that will see some major changes as well. It will be interesting to see how RB Shane Vereen handles a heavier workload or if Leon Washington can get any significant playing time. I suppose you might as well throw Tebow into that mix too in goal line situations.

On the topic of Tebow, I would have loved to see him run a Wildcat offense with twin towers Hernandez and Gronkowski. With that kind of size present (not to mention a lot of talent on New England's O-line), I'd find it very difficult to stop the Patriots in short yardage situations. Wishful thinking aside, it's still very likely we could see Tebow run some form of the Wildcat without Hernandez, but the options just aren't as entertaining. 

I used to get worried every time the Patriots went through any sort of roster change. When your team finds success you don't want to see the pieces disappear. Addition by subtraction was never a concept I bought into, and to this day I still don't. I didn't want to see the Patriots' roster change even after a disappointing exit in the AFC Championship against the Ravens. But after a decade of dominance and seeing formerly integral cogs in Belichick's scheme leave, I trust the man in the hoody. Players come and go and the Patriots have always adapted and moved on. It's the only way to respond in a "competitive business." It's the Patriot Way.


Reach Staff Writer Matthew Tufts here and on Twitter.



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