With all the turnover in the Pats receiving core this offseason, there has been plenty of questions as to how New England will replicate the production of the last few seasons. The vaunted ‘Boston TE Party’ is now gone, and the star of that party, Rob Gronkowski, may not be 100% healthy for the season opener. Tom Brady’s favorite receiver Wes Welker, is also gone, and between the losses of Hernandez, Welker, and Gronk (for now) the Pats will have 224 receptions, 2,627 yards, and 22 touchdowns that they had in 2012, and will not have in 2013.
A large portion of these statistics were gained by Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The reason that these two players were able to produce like this, was because of three reasons.
The first reason is, they were both extremely talented football players. I am not going to highlight Hernandez’s skill set because of his situation, but I am more than happy to dive into Gronk’s unique talent package. Rob Gronkowski is a guy that comes around every 100 years. His unique combination of size, and athleticism makes him a near impossible cover for any linebacker or safety in the NFL. He stands at 6’6 and when healthy, he weighs in at 265 pounds. That is a scary man right there. He can take on just about anybody on the field in terms of strength and power, and he uses this to his ability just about every single time he touches the football. He also has some solid speed and athleticism to go along with his humongous frame, and he tops it all off with some great hands. When the Patriots enter the red zone, you can pretty much forget about being able to cover Gronk successfully Brady and Gronk have connected for 38 touchdowns over the first three seasons of Gronk’s NFL career.
The second reason why Gronk and Hernandez were so successful, was because of how they complemented each other so well. When Gronk was getting double-teams thrown at him all game long, Hernandez knew how to capitalize on this. The same thing can be said for Gronkowski. When Hernandez was rolling, he knew what to do to counter the defense’s looks, and make some positive plays. You can get by on individual talent, but what can really make your team special, is having guys that know how to play together, and know how to do it in a very productive fashion.
The last reason why these two smashed so many records was because of all the mismatches that they created. They always seemed to find themselves with a favorable matchup on the field, and that makes putting up “Madden numbers” a lot easier. When Gronk gets a safety on him, it is like taking candy from a baby for him and Brady. Hernandez and Gronk found ways to get the easy matchup for each other, and then Brady made the decision as to which one would be the best to capitalize on.
Now let’s get into rookie Aaron Dobson, and newcomer Danny Amendola. I think that these two have the capability to put up ‘Boston TE Party’ type numbers largely because of the three reasons I mentioned above. They both have a lot of individual talent, and while Dobson has yet to prove it on the professional level, he put together a great college career, and from everything I have heard, he has been putting on an absolute show in training camp. The same can be said for Amendola as well. Everything that I have read that is Patriots related over the last few days, has said that Dobson and Amendola have been putting together a great couple days of practice.
With that being said, I think what will really put Dobson and Amendola over the top this year, is their ability to complement each other on the football field. On one side you will have Amendola, who is a great slot receiver, that can tear up the middle of a football field, while also possessing the versatility to produce on the outside. On the other side of the field, you have Aaron Dobson. Who, in my opinion may be the answer to the Patriots outside the numbers receiver problem. He has the size, the speed, the hands and the brains to give the Pats a shot of “explosiveness” when they step out onto the field. When Amendola is getting most of the attention towards the beginning of the year, because he will be the only known commodity lining up at receiver for New England, Dobson will make the opposing defense pay on the outside. Once Dobson gets a good feel on the Patriots playbook, I think he will be able to beat a good amount of cornerbacks when he gets one on one coverage. Eventually teams won’t know which receiver to put their number one corner on, or which side to shade their safety to, and then the Pats have themselves a mismatch for one of their very talented receivers. This is all without mentioning Rob Gronkowski. According to most reports, the worst case scenario is him being gone for six weeks. When he returns, the Patriots passing offense may be able to achieve the same type of prolific scoring prowess that they have had over the last few years.
This receiving dynamic is something that the Pats can really take advantage of. Both receivers are extremely talented, and if the Patriots use them right, I think that they can put up similar numbers to what Gronk and Hernandez put up. The mismatches that they will create won’t be as easy to manipulate as the ones that the ‘Boston TE Party’ were able to make, but they will still produce good yardage, and eventually touchdowns.
This is a very early,and bold statement to make, but I really do think the combination of Aaron Dobson, and Danny Amendola will put up huge numbers for New England in 2013. They have the talent, and hopefully they will gain the trust of Tom Brady, develop a knowledge of each others games, and then once again vault the Pats offense to the top of the NFL.