With Aaron Hernandez gone, the Patriots currently don’t have four of their top five receivers from 2012. The other one, Rob Gronkowski, is recovering from having his spine adjusted with a scalpel.
So what should the Patriots do? We gave Shaun King the G.M. title in New England during Thursday’s PFT Live, and he suggested that the Pats just be patient.
It’s a great point. Other guys can and will step up.
It happens all the time in football. One guy gets hurt, another guy steps in.
Making it easier for the Patriots is the presence of a franchise quarterback who still remains at the top of the game, even if he isn’t quite as great as he used to be. The perception of a receiver’s skill depends in large part on the quality of his quarterback, and Brady has helped make a lot of receivers look better than they would have been elsewhere.
The challenge for Brady will be to establish familiarity with the receivers. How long it takes to get off the line, how they run their routes, placement of the ball, etc.
The best way to make that happen will be to get as many reps as possible. In practice, after practice, on days when there is no practice. King thinks we’ll see the first-team offense more extensively in the preseason to aid Brady and the receivers in the process of getting ready to work together when the games count.
This doesn’t mean the Pats won’t try to find more players. Dallas Clark is still on the market. Brandon Lloyd, who had 911 receiving yards last year in New England, is still available. (And while some regard Lloyd as a guy who didn’t fit in with the Pats, quirks and other personality glitches don’t look quite as bad in light of the allegations made against Hernandez.) Randy Moss could be intrigued by a reunion. (Read the last parenthetical and replace “Lloyd” with “Moss.”)
Still, the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Gronk, is healthy, remains a force. King believes rookie Aaron Dobson could make an impact at receiver. And the decision to pilfer Jake Ballard from the Giants last year as they tried to slip him through to injured reserve suddenly looks brilliant.
Throughout the Belichick-Brady era, it has been presumed that the Patriots will remain contenders as long as both are around. They both are still there. Thus, it’s safe to presume they will still be contenders.