New England Patriots: Five Ways to Replace Aaron Hernandez's Production

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New England Patriots former tight end Aaron Hernandez (left) Mandatory Credit: The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots release of tight end Aaron Hernandez has triggered panicked responses across the Internet, the “blogosphere”, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr,etc) as Patriots fans and fantasy football enthusiasts try to comprehend what this means for the high-powered New England Patriots offense and their production in 2013. Fans of the other AFC teams have been hoping for over a decade now that this is the year that the New England Patriots juggernaut finally slips off the track.  However, this team is built to withstand injuries and constantly turnover talent and replace the old with the new. Lead Editor Joe Soriano had a great piece about replacing Hernandez  with some great analysis here looking at the offense and bringing in some great insight with advanced statistics.   In this piece the goal is to follow-up on Joe’s hard work and is giving a different perspective to identify and investigate five options the Patriots can employ to pick-up the slack on offense in light of Hernandez’s release.

The New England Patriots had already made the decision to move forward with a revamp and retooling of their high-powered offense this past off-season.  In fact, it can be argued that the Patriots made that decision when they brought back Josh McDaniels before the 2012 Super Bowl and he replaced current Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator.

The past season saw the Patriots continue to evolve with a return to and emphasis on the running game, whether it be a one-back set with two tight-ends and two wide receivers, or a one-back set with one tight-end (or H-back) and three wide receivers. The emphasis on the running game opened up the play-action pass into the arsenal for the first time since former Patriots running  back Laurence Maroney was lugging the rock effectively in 2007.

The Patriots have also taken steps to significantly upgrade their receiving corps for the first time since 2007 with an increase of youth, athleticism, and size.  As the offense evolves and the changes get put into place during training camp, the finished product will likely not be evident until September or more likely October, as Bill Belichick has long used September games as an extension of the pre-season games while ramping up for the later part of the season. The following slideshow will highlight the five ways the New England Patriots can replace former tight end Aaron Hernandez’s production on the field without missing a beat:

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  • Paul V. Suffriti

    nice overview…..I like the possibilities both on offense and defense. The defense may be the bigger surprise this season.

  • Hal Bent

    Thanks, Paul. I agree with you, the defense should open some eyes this year. I really like the idea of the defense having continuity and different, athletic pieces that give the team flexibility–that has been the strength of the offense, and now BB should FINALLY be able to game plan and have players understand the defense and be able to show different looks and change up before the snap. It really makes a fan realize how special Bruschi, Seymour, Warren, Vrabel, Law, Harrison et al were where they were able to basically play defense like Brady & Manning play offense: switching out of looks, formations, fronts and coverages within 10 seconds and having everyone on the same page.

  • Cyrus Geller

    Awesome piece Hal. I agree with you and Paul on this. The defense is going to be the key this year and I think it is going to be a lot better than the previous couple of seasons. The Adrian Wilson signing was huge in my eyes. It brings a physical safety that the Pats haven’t had on the field since Rodney Harrison. I like where the defensive line is headed as well in terms of their pass rush to go along with the three great young linebackers.

    • Hal Bent

      Thanks, my friend. Getting OLB/DE Jamie Collins up to speed is going to big boost to that pass rush as well, as he is so athletic and explosive. Not sure who was responsible on the coaching staff (Pepper Johnson and Patrick Graham have flip flopped linebackers and defensive line–guess they kind of overlap a lot and work as one group) for getting Chandler Jones ready to play right away last year (contrast to the Jets and taking 13 games to move their rookie DE/OLB Quinton Coples–who I really wanted the Pats to draft–outside and chase the QB and wasted a year of him by having him playing inside). Jones was supposed to be a project, but he looked like a polished top 5 defensive end before his ankle injury slowed him. If Graham and Johnson can get Collins ready for September, this defense is going to be such a huge asset for the first time in 5 or 6 years.

  • Joe Willie

    Paul lets bet a pizza the Jets defense ranks higher then the Pats in 2013–much higher in fact.