With several key departures via free agency this off-season, there may be a lack of an offensive identity in New England. Heading into the 2013, Tom Brady has Danny Amendola, Aaron Hernandez, and Julian Edelman (contract agreement pending) as the only healthy options to throw to. Departures of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and a fifth operation needed for superstar Rob Gronkowski’s surgically-repaired forearm have gutted what is usually a potent offense.
In fact, the Patriots are so desperate that they are willing to give up one of their few draft picks to sign Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet. The reported offer sheet is worth one-year/$2.5 million and would send a 3rd round pick to Pittsburgh. Of course, Pittsburgh can match the offer, which would cancel the move to New England altogether.
Things in New England might be so frantic that tight end Aaron Hernandez is training to be the team’s most impactful player next season. Sensing the desperation of this team, Hernandez knows he is going to have to fight off injury concerns of his own to help this team stay afloat for 2013.
Hernandez missed nearly half of the last season with re-occurring ankle problems and has not played a full season in his brief three-year career in the NFL. With Gronkowski slated to miss the first game of the season, and Sanders not quite locked up, Hernandez is altering his off-season training to be Tom Brady’s go-to-guy. In order to build upon an even stronger chemistry, Hernandez has been working out with his QB this off-season.
“I have just been training and trying to get my body right, get my strength up so I can have a decent season next year,” Hernandez told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “I’d say I’m paying more attention to specific muscles instead of the basic bench, squat, and all that other stuff. I started a little earlier to try and get through 16 games this season.”
In addition to injury concerns, the offensive dynamic of the team has changed as a result of the departures. However, with Tom Brady still at the helm, the Patriots will be in a position to win games. A healthy tandem of Gronk and Hernandez is still a dangerous one, and Amendola can play a similar role to Welker.
Overall, there should be no immediate cause for concern in New England. After all, the team still has a top-five QB and two of the top tight ends in football. Bill Belichick and company should have no problem disposing of weak AFC East opponents like the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins. Games against the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers should also warrant a positive result. That is a .500 record right there.
Games are not won in April, and there is no reason to riot Foxborough just yet. Ultimately, the NFL Draft and remaining time in the off-season will dictate the movement of that panic meter for Patriots’ fans. Sure it might not be a 12-win season like Pats fans are accustomed to, but I wouldn’t count against Tom Brady and Belichick once the regular season starts.
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