The word “vulnerable” is one that has been associated with the New England Patriots at various points throughout the offseason. Since March, the Pats have lost Wes Welker to the Broncos, lost Aaron Hernandez to a murder charge, released Brandon Lloyd, and seen Rob Gronkowski undergo his fifth surgery since last year. Add the departure of Danny Woodhead into the mix and Tom Brady could be without his five leading receivers from last year when Week 1 rolls around.
Now, the focus has turned to whether or not Brady and Bill Belichick can pull another rabbit out of their notorious hat. Miami Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is skeptical. When asked if the Patriots are vulnerable, he had the following to say.
“I think they are but you have to prove it, you can’t just talk about it,” he told CBSSports.com. “I was brought here to help knock them off. That doesn’t mean we will, but we feel like we can. Like I said, we just have to prove it. You have to actually go do it.”
We know at least one legendary NFL quarterback who agrees. More specifically, Ellerbe said he feels the loss of Hernandez will have a major impact on New England’s offense.
“Losing a starter always hurts and losing a starter as good as he was will really hurt,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the Patriots are the same as before after what happened to Hernandez.”
Whether they can be as good remains to be seen, but the Patriots certainly are not the same. Unlike years past, it looks like the 2013 edition of the team will have to rely more heavily on defense — especially if Danny Amendola takes a while to build chemistry with Brady.
Fortunately, New England’s defense is young and has great potential. The core of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes has been together for several years and shown signs of improvement. Throw young guys like Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Aqib Talib into the mix and the task seems doable. Without many of their most explosive weapons from last season, the Pats will need their defense to be as stingy as possible.