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Jake Ballard Could Have Breakout Season With New England Patriots In 2013

Jake Ballard

Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Hernandez’s life seems to be falling apart right in front of everyone’s eyes. The New England Patriots‘ star tight end will reportedly be arrested in connection with the ongoing murder investigation in North Attleboro, Mass., according to Steve Silva of Boston.com.

Hernandez is said to have “direct ties” to the homicide, according to FOX 25 News. Meanwhile, he is also being sued by Alexander Bradley, who claims Hernandez shot him in the face near a Florida strip club in February. That lawsuit was refiled in a South Florida District Court on Thursday, piling on to the miseries for the talented tight end.

The well-being of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ other star tight end, has been well documented this offseason. He has had multiple surgeries, the latest being a back surgery that will likely keep him out the first two weeks of the regular season.

That being said, who will quarterback Tom Brady be firing passes to in the 2013 season? The wide receiving corps has endured a complete overhaul, with Julian Edelman being the lone wideout from last year’s roster to return to the Patriots. The wide receiving group may still pan out, but either way, the success of the Patriots’ offense is predicated on their ability to incorporate the tight end extensively into the offense.

With the uncertainties surrounding Hernandez and Gronkowski, who will step up at the tight end position for the Patriots? Could the saving grace of the offense be Jake Ballard, who missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL? Ballard, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound tight end, was claimed off waivers from the New York Giants last June. Despite missing the entirety of last season, Ballard could be every effective in the Patriots’ offensive schemes.

Ballard was essentially redshirted last season as he was able to learn the Patriots’ offense while on the sidelines. Having a mastering of the playbook could pay major dividends for Ballard this season. Ballard’s talent is undeniable. In his lone season in the NFL in 2011 with the Super Bowl Champion Giants, he hauled in 38 receptions for 604 yards with four touchdowns. Not only did Ballard average a whopping 15.9 yards per catch as a member of Giants, he also was a great blocking tight end, especially in the run game.

While Ballard may be counted on heavily in the Patriots’ offense in 2013, the tight end will likely not feel immense pressure. Tom Brady has the power to alleviate any daunting expectations on his playmakers with his astounding quarterback skills. Ballard has a chance to thrive in the Patriots’ offense, especially with Brady leading the charge.

Tyler Ash is a New England Patriots Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on twitter @TyAsh34 Like His Facebook Page, or add him to your network on Google Plus