Are Patriots' problems real?

Defense has been strong, but offense must now adapt minus TE Hernandez

Originally Published: September 21, 2012
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.
Aaron HernandezGreg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Patriots' Aaron Hernandez will be out at least a month with an ankle injury.

With a perceived easy schedule, talented veteran roster and outstanding coaches, most people expected the New England Patriots to pile up wins easily this season. Their Week 2 home loss to Arizona was shocking and will either serve as a wake-up call or signal some significant problems that need to be fixed.

When I watched the film this week, I saw some things that could potentially hold the Patriots back, ironically, on offense, as this defense looks much improved and is holding its own. Should Patriots fans be concerned about this offense now, with Aaron Hernandez injured?

Let's look at four issues that need to be addressed:

The Hernandez factor

Rob Gronkowski may get more publicity, but when you study this team, it's Hernandez who makes the offense go. Because of his freakish athletic ability, he is a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses and his versatility gives this offense a lot of flexibility. They will line him up wide, in the slot, in-line, in the backfield and at times on the same side as Gronkowski. All of this movement allows Tom Brady to get good pre-snap reads on coverages and allows him to identify good one-on-one matchups. With Hernandez out, the Patriots will have to rethink their favorite "12" offensive grouping, which is two TEs, two WRs and one running back. And they may have to go back to more three-receiver sets.


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Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.