Patriots' passing identity takes big hit if team loses Aaron Hernandez

For the Patriots, Aaron Hernandez's situation is compounded by the health of Rob Gronkowski, the loss of Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots are a no-huddle hybrid attack team, and defenses can never be right with the personnel that they send on the field because of the flexibility of Hernandez and Gronkowski.

The Patriots' flexibility to get into any formation that they want and create matchup problems is almost non-exsistent without the two tight ends, so that's a big problem. Also, Tom Brady would have close to three quarters of his 2012 receptions off the roster if Hernandez joins the list of weapons no longer available or on the team. 

The Patriots are in the business of winning football games, and I'm sure they are digging up as much information as they can about how the homicide investigation involving Hernandez is going as well as listening to the doctors on Gronkowski.

The truth is they probably are already thinking about a guy like Dallas Clark to come in and put a bandage on their problems. I don't think they would sign anyone right now, which would raise the questions about presuming guilt for Hernandez, but they have to be ready. Whether it's jail time, league suspension or simply Hernandez can't function with all the pressure the team has to get ready for the season.

Keep in mind the Patriots rushed for 25 touchdowns last year and added LeGarrette Blount to the roster. Were they effective because of the constant threat of the passing game?

I think so.

If the Patriots had to line up right now for a game in their three wide receiver set, it would be Michael Jenkins, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Jake Ballard. None of them have ever caught a pass from Brady in a game. None of them can line up in the backfield like Hernandez has, and none of them can line up like a wing like Hernandez has.

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