The New England Patriots have been dominant since Tom Brady returned from suspension. The defense has been doing what it needs to do to win games and the offense has been good as well. And while some may want to talk about the effect Tom Brady has on the Patriots offense, arguably a piece of equal importance gets caught in Brady's shadow sometimes. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is a huge part of what New England does on the offensive end. He has been giving opponent nightmares all season long when he has been on the field. But what happens when he is not out there? Well, the Patriots are about to find that out for presumably the rest of the season. Gronkowski was diagnosed with a herniated disc and will more than likely be out for the rest of the season. And with that, the level of worry for the Patriots has gone up. Tom may be there, but his best target will need to go on the Injured Reserve. And although they still have one very excellent tight end in Martellus Bennett, they still will need to make some adjustments.
One adjustment to expect will come from the wide receivers. With Gronk there, the Patriots would line him up in the slot, out wide and at the conventional tight end position as well. And lining him up anywhere provided a huge mismatch for the Patriots that they were able to take advantage of. With that walking mismatch out of the lineup, expect more shorter and quicker routes from the wide receivers. Routes like five-yard outs, slants and crossing routes at a length of 8-10 yards down the field will start to reappear more. And along with those routes becoming more regularly used by New England, also expect to see more rub routes from them as well. For those that are not aware of what rub routes are, those are when essentially the Patriots are setting screens on the field by running a route combination that runs one wide receiver into a defender while freeing up another wide receiver. Of course, depending on the coverage is when you will see the rub routes of the crossing patterns. The Patriots still have one weapon that can go deep for them at wide receiver in Chris Hogan. But other than him, their receivers are built for the offensive adjustments the Patriots will have to make. And one receiver to expect to enjoy the changeup is Julian Edelman, who seems to always get open for Brady.
But the adjustments in the gameplans not only have to do with the wide receivers. The running backs of the Patriots have now got to be more involved in the passing game. As far as the routes they will be running more of, look for potential wheel patterns out of the backfield, especially when teams are playing man-to-man defense. All it takes is a wide receiver running a slant pattern to get in the way of a linebacker getting out to defend the running back and then the Patriots have a running back running wide open down the field. But other than the wheel pattern that can open up via running rub routes, the Patriots can also get the running backs involved in the passing game with the shorter routes like hitting them in the flats with passes or also hitting them with swing passes. The combination of all those type of routes combined with the multiple guys they have at running back can make things a little difficult for defenses, especially since the Pats have a quarterback like Tom Brady, who is very accurate with the football.
The Patriots took a big blow losing Gronkowski to an injury, but it isn't like they have not had to deal with injuries before. And like usual, the Pats will make adjustments like they usually do. No one knows exactly what adjustments they will make, but you can guarantee that in the passing game, there will be more rub patterns and things like that seen. The only question now is who will step up and help produce in place of Gronkowski. We know that Bennett is there, but the Pats will need more than just him. It will take a group effort.