One issue the New England Patriots have had since the offseason started has been injuries. It started when offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer missed a majority of training camp and has spread throughout the team’s offense as the season has gone on. With some recent injuries, the Patriots passing game is in trouble with a lack of options available.
When the Patriots broke camp they decided to stay with the same offensive game plan as last season. That meant the passing attack being focused on the tight ends, specifically Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It seemed like a good decision since no team in the league has the capability to match up well with the two star tight ends. Part of that plan was to carry five wide receivers and four tight ends. But injuries have hampered that plan early in the season.
The recent problems for the Patriots started when Hernandez went down with an ankle injury in week two. Over the past year the Patriots offense has been based on both Gronkowski and Hernandez so when Hernandez went down, the team had to adjust their game plan. Expected to be out for an extended period of time, the Patriots replaced Hernandez with veteran Kellen Winslow Jr. But Winslow has suffered several knee injuries throughout his career and those injuries have forced the former Pro Bowler to ask the Patriots for his release.
Other injuries to key components of the passing game has also hurt the Patriots. In week four Julian Edelman, who had become a key target for Tom Brady, suffered a hand injury and looks to be out for an extended period of time. Edelman will likely be replaced by Greg Salas who started the season on the active roster but was later replaced by Deion Branch and sent to the practice squad.
To make matters worse, one of the remaining tight ends is not fully healthy. Newly acquired Daniel Fells suffered an injury during training camp which saw him absent in physical activity until week three. Even then he was only on the field for five plays. This leaves the Patriots further strained in their aerial attack.
If the Patriots replace Edelman with Salas for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots will have five wide receivers and three tight ends. With inexperienced running backs following the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Patriots have strayed away from a consistent rushing attack and have been more focused on a quick paced, no huddle passing game. But injuries have caused Brady to have limited receivers. The Patriots offense has been able to put up points rather consistently under the circumstances but with a weak defense and a 1-2 record, this latest problem could be too much to overcome.