The New England Patriots suffered a significant blow to their offensive side of the ball losing star tight end Aaron Hernandez to injury. Hernandez has been reported to have a high ankle sprain that will allow 4-6 weeks of heal time. This is a big blow to the Patriots offense. The Patriots offense has changed since drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez . The Patriots’ offense is based around these two tight ends. Without Aaron Hernandez the Patriots needed to find a way to fill the void while he is healing up.
The day I found out that Dieon Branch was released I honestly couldn’t figure out why. The Patriots had released Donte’ Stallworth and Jabaar Gaffney. They went from having the deepest wide receiving core to having one of the thinnest. Why would the Patriots cut one of their most reliable options at wide receiver? Branch’s big knock is that he doesn’t have break away speed like he used to. Well not many 33 year old receivers have break away speed. Branch’s value was as a 3rd-4th option at receiver who had Tom Brady’s trust to be where he needed to be and make the catches. Another speculation was if Branch were released and brought back any time after week one, the Patriots would not have to guarantee his contract. Branch’s locker has remained intact this season and this move was expected however the injury to Hernandez likely sped up the process. When interviewed and asked about it Branch mentioned how he received calls from other teams but he had to do what was in the best interest in his family. I think the Patriots and Branch had a wink wink nod nod agreement and a Branch return to New England was imminent. Tom Brady was asked on WEEI a week or so ago if he would like to have Branch back and he said at this point Branch is not on the roster which to me eluded to Branch also returning. Either way Patriots Nation Branch is back and will absolutely come in aid of the loss of Hernandez . Branch is a savvy vet who knows the Patriots offense and can step in with Tom Brady and be effective against the Ravens on Sunday.
The Patriots have been flirting with signing Kellen Winslow since his surprise release from the Seahawks. Winslow is a former Pro Bowl tight end who’s skill set is very similar to Hernandez’s. Winslow will allow the Patriots to continue their two tight end sets and will fill the role of Aaron Hernandez in his absence. How Winslow will pan out remains to be seen. One would think it would be difficult for Winslow to just learn Hernandez’s role in a week so I suspect it will take some time before we see results but Winslow has speed and can still catch the ball. Winslow was reported to be one of the best offensive weapons on the Seahawks and was abruptly cut before the season opener. Winslow has visited the Patriots a few times and reportedly failed a physical a few weeks ago. This time around Winslow passed and is now on the Patriots roster.
Adding these two will surely soften the blow to the loss of Hernandez. However the Patriots offensive woes go deeper than the loss of Hernandez. The Patriots need a turn around offensively if they want to have a successful season. Losing to the Arizona Cardinals isn’t a great sign for a team that was in the Super Bowl 8 months ago.
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