The Patriots need to address the loss of Rob Gronkowski immediately.
When Rob Gronkowski announced he’d be retiring not too long after the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, everyone in New England hung their head. The loss of the All-Pro tight end was immeasurable.
That was proven to be true during the 2019 season when the Patriots offense took a massive step back, deployed guys like Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse, and were embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Game.
Gronk’s absence killed both the running and passing game and took away Tom Brady‘s biggest weapon. And we’re sitting here wondering why TB12 left for Tampa Bay? Come on.
Here’s what ESPN’s Mike Reiss had to say about all of this, and it makes you think:
"Different year, same story. The Patriots have been without Rob Gronkowski since the 2019 offseason, but still don’t have a clear-cut replacement. Matt LaCosse’s decision to opt out has been overshadowed by bigger names such as linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, but without him, the Patriots are relying heavily on rookie Devin Asiasi (third round, UCLA). It might be asking too much. When Asiasi didn’t take part in team drills late last week after appearing to roll his ankle, there was a notable void."
How did Bill Belichick, of all people, not address Gronk’s departure in a more aggressive way? The legendary head coach does churn out productive players that have been overlooked/tossed aside, but replacing Gronk isn’t as easy as imparting the “Next Man Up” philosophy. Gronk is probably the best to ever do it at his position.
New England used its fourth-round pick (acquired from the Bucs in the Gronk trade) to trade up and draft on UCLA’s Devin Asiasi in the third round, who cannot disappoint if things are to go according to plan (though he’s already been absent due to injuries). Belichick also drafted Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene in the same round, so he better hope his maneuver works out. Asiasi and Keene are not Gronk and Hernandez.
This whole situation could’ve been avoided (perhaps) if Belichick didn’t trade Jacob Hollister to the Seahawks for pretty much nothing. He’s proven to be a great target for Russell Wilson after filling in for injuries in Seattle.
The tight end position has been a focal point of the Patriots offense for years and quarterback Cam Newton relied on Greg Olsen for years in Carolina. In fact, Olsen was the team’s leading receiver THREE times with Newton under center. That says a lot.
That’s why it’s imperative for the Patriots to get Gronk’s replacement (whoever it may be) to hit the ground running in 2020. The position is crucial in making the team’s offense more dynamic and it’s one that makes Newton a more effective/dangerous quarterback.