Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
For die-hard football fans, the offseason never really gets boring. There are always teams to discuss, players to debate and different rankings to pick apart (not to mention analyzing your friend’s “Tebowing” skills). This Aaron Hernandez business has really made everyone that covers the Patriots focus on the team’s offense, and how it will adjust. I have seen a lot of articles with this idea as the main focus, and I figured why not give it a shot. Obviously not a single one of us knows how the Patriots will adjust to the fact that Hernandez is no longer on the field for New England, but we all love to pretend.
When I look at the Patriots current offensive roster, I see a team that has a ton of potential. I see a squad that is rebuilding, with a focus on bringing in younger, more explosive guys. They have replaced Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd with Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson. Both of these new guys are much younger, and much more explosive. “Explosion” is the new thing in the NFL these days, and we all know that the NFL is a copycat league. When one team sees another team doing something that is successful, then they start to copy them until it is being done league wide. However, this “explosion” idea hasn’t been adopted by the Patriots until now. Sure, they have continually had one of the best offense’s in the league, but that doesn’t mean it was an explosive offense. They would methodically break you down with mismatches in the middle of the field, and that seemed to work for them just fine. But eventually, opposing teams would clog up the middle, and force the Pats to do something explosive, which of course they were unable to do. But now I see them going in a different direction that will generate great rewards for them in the 2013 season.
The first thing that I think they should be doing on offense is to go back to the “ground and pound” idea of the early 2000’s. I think that if they run the ball with Stevan Ridley 20-30 times a game, it will open up a lot of good opportunities for the receivers on the outside. Ridley is a great running back, and he showed a lot of potential in the 2012 season. He has great vision, and he moves very well for a back his size. I think that if the Patriots keep feeding him the ball, he will blossom into one of the best running backs in the league, and at the same time he will be helping Tom Brady’s wide receivers make some plays. This will also help Brady be more effective. When Brady drops back in the shotgun 50 times a game, he is deadly. But when he has a running game and he is able to use play action, he becomes twice as deadly. All of a sudden linebackers have to deal with the best quarterback in the league, as well as a top notch running game. This could really propel the Patriots offense to another level, especially considering the fact that they will be without Hernandez, as well as Wes Welker for this upcoming season. One other thing that this new ‘run first’ mentality does, is it helps preserve Brady’s arm. Even though Brady keeps himself in top physical condition, he is still 35 years old. Preserving his arm strength for the playoffs is the most important key to the Patriots success, and having the luxury of handing it off to Ridley is probably going to make Brady very happy.
The second thing the Patriots offense must do, ties right into the running game idea. Belichick and company must use the Patriots new-found youth to their advantage. I don’t want to see Amendola and Dobson running four yard curls throughout the whole game. I want to see them use their speed and try to blow the top off the defense. Both of these guys have shown they have the physical traits (Dobson in college) and if you let them use it, then I think great things will happen. Now, chemistry is a huge thing in the game of football, and both of these players must gain some sort of rhythm with Brady before the season begins. I have heard that throughout mini-camp, Brady and Amendola were starting to get it down and hopefully that continues to training camp, and then the regular season. Another guy that you can throw into this equation is Julian Edelman. Edelman is a guy that didn’t see much playing time because of Welker, and because of injuries. But now that Welker is gone and it seems that Edelman is recovering well from his foot injury, I think that Edelman has a chance to shine next year.
If you are a Patriots fan, you know that Belichick is an extremely stubborn coach. But you also know that he knows when it is time for a change, and I think he knows that right now is that time. He has the possibility to do something great with this offense. Most people around the NFL are probably thinking that the Patriots offense will take a step down this season. Well I think that the Pats can use this loss of Welker and Hernandez as the perfect excuse to start making some serious changes in their philosophy on the offensive side of the ball for the better of the team.
The bottom line in all of this, is the Patriots are not going to replace Aaron Hernandez by simply adding someone via free agency, or making a big trade. In my opinion, the Patriots are going to have to make a big change in the way they operate on offense. The Patriots are one of, if not the best run organizations in football. I know that they will do the right thing in moving on from this talented, but troubled football player, and if they do it right, I believe that they will come out of it a better offensive team.