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No Rob Gronkowski, (likely) no problem for Patriots’ offense around Tom Brady

first_imgTom Brady and the Patriots now officially know they will no longer have the services of Rob Gronkowski in their quest to win more Super Bowls. On paper, the retirement of the future Hall of Fame tight end leaves New England a passing game with limited weapons and unlimited questions about whether this will finally set in motion the true decline of their six-ringed quarterback.Just like every other situation in which it might have be prudent to write off the Patriots, they will evolve to get new answers from other personnel. MORE: Gronkowski saved his best for lastIn fairness, the Patriots did struggle to find the end zone in Super Bowl 53 until Gronk made a signature Gronk-like play to save the day. The best tight end on their current roster for 2019 is recently signed Matt LaCosse. Their wide receiver depth chart behind Julian Edelman reads Phillip Dorsett and two more newcomers, Maurice Harris and Bruce Ellington. No Gronkowski also means one less strong blocker for running back Sony Michel.Behind New England, there are several offensive-minded upstarts waiting in line to take the AFC throne, led by Kansas City, Indianapolis and, yes, Cleveland. Now Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Baker Mayfield all seem to have better support than Brady does.However, this is forgetting that Gronk was very un-Gronk-like for most of his final NFL season, and history shows there’s always another offensive Patriot ready to come through to help Brady in the clutch.Troy Brown. Kevin Faulk. Deion Branch. James White. Edelman, your reigning Super Bowl MVP.MORE: Belichick reacts to Gronk’s retirementThe Patriots have lived by the motto of “Do Your Job” to consistently win at a high level in the Bill Belichick era. That has been redefined as Do Someone Else’s Old Job, stepping into vacancies created by injuries, retirements or other departures. The hole Gronkowski leaves is literally bigger than those left by most, but one can already see some of the Patriots’ calculated replacement plan in motion.Harris is a massive slot guy at 6-3, 200 pounds, while Ellington is the more traditional Patriots inside mighty mite at 5-9, 200 pounds. LaCosse, who showed some receiving upside with the Broncos and Giants, is built like Gronk at 6-6, 255 pounds.It’s almost like the Patriots (shocker) were well prepared for Gronkowski’s decision. They also are sitting on the No. 32 pick in the draft, in the wheelhouse to tap into the near-top of a strong tight end class. Logic would suggest super-athletic Iowa prospect Noah Fant is in play to pair with LaCosse should, as expected, his former Hawkeyes teammate T.J. Hockenson be drafted earlier in the first round. MORE: Brady’s reaction to Gronk’s retirementWith offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have had to reinvent themselves several times, often when Gronkowski was not healthy enough to play. Brady and the Patriots will miss Gronkowski just like any team would miss a transcendent talent. But unlike other teams, there will be nothing panicky or predictable about how they go about doing it.As long as Brady is in New England to orchestrate it all — and there’s no concern of him following his friend and former teammate into the sunset just yet — it will be same success, different way.center_img But who knows? The Patriots might not force the issue with two tight ends. They might lean on the various size-speed-quickness skill sets of Edelman, Dorsett, Harris and Ellington and spread the field more that way for Brady. They could use that first-rounder on a wideout to further that effort. Josh Gordon could be available to them again. Heck, the Patriots might even be one step ahead by going back to an old-school ground and pound with Michel, taking advantage of more pass-oriented defensive back sevens.Remember, this is a team that used a fullback, James Develin, as an outside receiver to create trickle-down matchup problems in the Super Bowl. Most teams don’t employ that position anymore anywhere, period. Ask the Rams; you just never know with the Patriots until they exploit a weakness you didn’t even know you had.last_img read more

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