The NFL is a league of adjustments. Coaches have to make due with the constant amount of injuries and ineffectiveness that plagues their players. With that being said, Josh McDaniels should be ready to live life without Rob Gronkowski.
McDaniels has seen this movie before. Gronkowski missed the first six games of the season, so McDaniels had to make due then. Overall, the New England Patriots did not struggle as the players helped post a 5-1 record. People should not be deceived, though, as Tom Brady and his fellow offensive players struggled with bouts of inconsistency. They did seem to get better as time went along, but that was very dependent on who they played.
Nevertheless, McDaniels must have learned from this experience. He went through several different strategies to get the best possible offensive production. Some of his moves worked (like playing Julian Edelman more than Danny Amendola), and some did not (playing Kenbrell Thompkins more than Aaron Dobson). After six games, however, McDaniels must have figured something out.
So where does McDaniels go from here? He must turn to the running game to take some of the pressure off of Brady. Without Gronkowski, McDaniels’ best option would be to run more I-formations. That means that James Develin should get more snaps as he has done a good job at fullback. When it is time to pass, McDaniels must look to use more three-receiver and four-receiver formations. Shane Vereen has to be the running back in all of these scenarios as he dominates in the passing game. Meanwhile, Edelman has emerged as the No. 1 receiver. These two players should be featured.
It gets more complicated after that. In three-receiver formations, the best trio to put out there is probably Edelman, Dobson (when healthy) and Josh Boyce. Those three complement each other the best. McDaniels will probably choose Edelman, Amendola and a rotation of Dobson and Thompkins (when healthy) though. He must get over his affinity for slot receivers in order to add more dimension to the offense, but this is unlikely to happen. McDaniels just loves his underneath receivers.
When it comes to four-receiver formations, McDaniels should deploy Edelman and Amendola on the inside while Dobson and Boyce man the outside. It is unlikely that Boyce even gets snaps in this package, but he should because Boyce is the best deep threat that McDaniels has. However, the deep ball is not too important to McDaniels so we will probably see Thompkins out there instead.
Regardless of what he chooses to do, McDaniels does have options. He will have to be more conservative in the running game and be more spread-out in the passing game. That is what losing a great tight end does to an offensive coordinator. It will be hard to cope without Gronkowski, but a truly great offensive coordinator must be able to adapt to such things.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.