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Dolphins LB Dannell Ellerbe: Losing Aaron Hernandez will ‘really hurt’ Patriots

Aaron HernandezThe 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.

John Harbaugh Chews Out Dannell Ellerbe for Showboating on Touchdown

There aren’t many places where you can do something great and be reprimanded for it seconds later, but that’s life in the NFL. Dannell Ellerbe, the second year linebacker from Georgia, picked off a pass in Baltimore’s preseason game against St. Louis and returned it for a score. He decided to do a little pre-end zone celebrating that turned out better than DeSean Jackson’s antics, but it still drew the ire of his coach, John Harbaugh. Harbaugh didn’t get as crazy as Mark Mangino did in this classic video, but he did tear into Ellerbe. Peep the tape:

Harbaugh described the actions as “classless,” which sounds about right. You’d like to say that Ellerbe learned his lesson, but Harbaugh’s words seemed to have gone in one ear and out the other. Hopefully he learned his lesson; there’s no need for that garbage.

Sources:
Why wasn’t Ellerbe penalized for antics? [Ravens Insider]
Video Credit: YouTube user TonyL24x7