Danny Amendola and Julien Edelman should have a more prominent role in the offense this season
With the Patriots' release of Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots now have a gaping hole in their receiving corps. Obviously they had a good reason to release him, and if his charges stick he should never see an NFL field again in his life. Reports and stories about this situation have been all over the place in the last week, but none really take a look at the football side of it.
With Hernandez gone, Tom Brady could be without his top five pass catchers from last season on Week One. (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Woodhead) Personally, I don't think resigning Lloyd would be a bad idea on a low-cost, one-year deal, but that ship may have sailed already.
Hernandez had a unique skill set with his hands, strength, speed, and elusiveness that Brady loved to utilize, especially in 3rd down situations. With him gone, the dynamic duo of him and Gronk is now split up after 3 seasons. Will we see Bill Belichick shy away from his beloved two tight end sets? There is no one already on the roster or in free agency that has a similar skill set to Hernandez, but there are some players who could shine in a larger role.
Behind Gronk on the tight end depth chart, the most well known players are Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, and Michael Hoomanowanui. Ballard has a similar body to Gronk and has solid hands, but I envision him being used more on 3rd and short and in the red zone, not a 3 down player. Daniel Fells has been quiet in his Patriot career, but has been in the system for a few years and was decent during his time in Denver. Hoomanowanui, although fun to say, hasn't been much of a factor for the Pats, but he has shown some versatility when on the field.
Each of those three have a different skill set, but none are the talent that Hernandez was. Newcomer Danny Amendola is an immense talent, and he must stay healthy all season in order to give Brady a reliable middle of the field weapon and hopefully ease the loss of Welker and Hernandez. Rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce also may now be relied on more than anticipated.
I have no doubt Belichick will adjust and have the team prepared for each and every game, but health and rookie contributions will be key to New Englands aerial attack. Brady might have to have one of his best seasons ever to lead the Patriots to the promise land, and running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley may have to carry more of a load running the ball than last season.