The New England Patriots seem a little empty handed with only two months until the start of the regular season and week 1 within their sights. Not only has star receiver Wes Welker left for the Denver Broncos this past offseason, but tight end Rob Gronkowski may miss the start of the season coming off multiple surgeries. Now, with tight end Aaron Hernandez having been released by New England and facing murder charges, it seems that all of quarterback Tom Brady’s main pieces are gone. Where do the Patriots go from here?
Since drafting Gronkowski and Hernandez, New England has relied on their elite tight-end combination to carry them in recent years. Years that has included multiple AFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. The Patriots have been one of the most dominant teams in the AFC, but losing such important parts to their offense could be a major hit. Though they are led by arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, Brady can’t carry this team by himself, and New England doesn’t expect that from him. That’s where Danny Amendola comes in.
The Patriots acquired Amendola this past offseason signing him to a five-year $31 million contract. New England took a risk on Amendola, knowing that he is injury prone. Last season, Amendola only played 11 games for the St. Louis Rams, posting three touchdowns and 666 yards. Amendola has never been known to be a stat sheet stuffer, but with an average quarterback at best in Sam Bradford, nobody can really expect eye-popping numbers. Amendola already has a good sense for the Patriots’ offensive schemes, having played under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the Rams in 2011.
Amendola needs all the advantages he can get, and making a good first impression with Tom Brady is one of them. “He comes in and he works really hard, and he wants to do everything right,” Brady said at halftime of his Boston Buddies charity touch-football game. “He’s very competitive. It’s been a lot of fun. He’s out here today, we’re having fun together.”
Chemistry with his receivers is something that Brady needs to establish. “I’ve developed some good chemistry with receivers over the years … that body language is really important — when to sit, when to move, when to give me your eyes, when to give me your hands,” Brady said. “All those little cues that you’re using to try to anticipate things as a player is very important. That’s why some guys really pick things up and why you develop a chemistry with certain players. Like Aaron and Rob, they got it so quickly and they were very talented players. Danny’s come in and done it.”
The most important thing for New England entering the 2013 season is their defense. For the first time, in a long time, the defense may need to carry this team on its back. There are no more excuses. The defense needs to step up, and this is the year to do it. Though they may want to believe otherwise, the offense will never be the same, with the significant losses of Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez. If the defense can mature and the offensive chemistry can stand pact, then the Patriots may find themselves back on top as one of the elite teams in the AFC.