Are the Patriots’ skill position players better this year than last?
By Hal Bent
Additions at tight end
The Patriots first addressed their pass-catching depth via free agency.
Tight ends Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson (along with the since-released Austin Seferian-Jenkins) were added to help fill the void left behind by Gronkowski’s retirement. Recently, veteran Lance Kendricks was added to the competition at tight end to compete with youngsters Andrew Beck, Ryan Izzo, and Stephen Anderson.
None of these tight ends comes even close to a replacement for Gronkowski, but New England’s offense–although tight end centric since 2011–is quite capable of operating at a high level without Gronkowski. It’s easy to forget that the Patriots actually won Super Bowl 51 with Martellus Bennett filling in for Gronk at tight end; they also made the AFC Championship Game in both 2012 and 2013 without Gronkowski.
While LaCosse and Watson may only produce league-average production (and Watson is suspended for the first four games of the season after failing a drug test back in the spring), they should be more than adequate for an offense that has historically functioned at a high level in the past with the likes of Michael Hoomanawanui, Tim Wright, and Scott Chandler at tight end in place of Gronkowski out of necessity.