We'll lead off today's edition with three thoughts on this Tuesday morning:
1) Rob Gronkowski's potential return comes just in time - On the heels of yesterday's report about Gronkowski's potential return this weekend, fans are obviously looking forward to seeing him finally hit the field against the Saints this weekend. There's been plenty of discussion about the conflict surrounding his exact time frame on his return thanks to the reports in recent weeks by the Boston Herald, and it obviously made sense considering what he dealt with back in January after fracturing his arm for the second time. The weather conditions in Cincinnati last weekend were poor, so considering the dangers of playing in slippery wet weather having worked his way back from offseason back surgery, it wasn't the ideal time for him to play last weekend. The only downside is going to be the fact that having not played in a full NFL game for nearly a year, he's obviously going to be working with limited snaps this weekend and that's going to force the Patriots to use him sparingly as they try to keep up with one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Had he played even a handful of snaps this past Sunday, they could have potentially increased his workload this week. However, it's obviously more important that once he hits the field it's for the long haul, so hopefully all the precaution pays off. That being said it will be interesting to watch his snap count, which will force New England to have to pick their moments with him. Hopefully they're able to get the most from him as they can when he's out there.
2) Aaron Hernandez is the elephant in the room people seem to forget about - There's been a lot of discussion throughout the early part of this season about the fact that the Patriots have been undermanned on the offensive side of the football, and that the front office did a poor job of making sure Tom Brady had enough to work with this offseason during this point of his career. Looking at the roster on paper, this really is a pretty talented group of receivers led by Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, along with the rookies who are still developing. However, bringing them in was absolutely the right move because it injected speed and youth into a receiving core that before now didn't have any. For those who feel the Patriots personnel department left them hanging, they need to understand a couple key things. First, during the free agent period the team had no idea that Gronkowski would need back surgery (which reportedly took place in June), but more importantly they also had no idea that Hernandez would be in prison a few months later and charged with murder. It's hard not to realize that had Hernandez not put himself in this position, this team would have been completely different offensively and likely would have been more productive since his presence on the field would have opened things up for other players. New England went into the year with this new group with the understanding that they'd have their dynamic tight end duo to help carry the load until they settled in. Instead, both were gone, one temporarily and one permanently, and Hernandez' absence has been especially brutal because there wasn't anyone else to help ease the burden of Gronkowski's delayed rehabilitation. Either way, his loss was really a turning point heading into this season, and unfortunately they're still trying to adjust.
3) It's not time to "blow it up" just yet - You always knew this day would come at some point, but it's amazing to hear all the talk that after watching some of Brady's struggles recently, there are some who feel it may be time to trade the veteran quarterback and start looking to rebuild and plan for the future. Some point to his indecision and erratic throws, but that really seems to be a lack of confidence in who he's throwing to more so than a diminished skill set. One key that Brady has always been big on is not turning the football over, and despite the two botched snaps that he lost this year, he's not out there throwing the ball into double coverage and making bad decisions. The biggest issue is the fact it looks like he's not entirely sure of where each player is going to be on every single play since he is, after all, playing with pretty much a completely new group of guys than he was last season. Generally it's time to push the panic button when a team drops three or more games below .500 with no sign of improvement or hope for the future. They're no where near that point yet, so how there can even be a whisper of these ideas sort of defies logic.
GROGAN DISAGREES THAT BRADY'S SHOWING HIS AGE:
Staying on the same point mentioned above, former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan was asked in his weekly "Grogan's Grade" edition (now available) if he felt that Brady is "showing his age" after some of the inconsistent play we've seen recently. He disagreed, and feels it's more due to the lack of experience of who he's throwing to and doesn't feel his ability has dropped off.
"I don’t think so," said Grogan. "I think it’s more a factor of playing with some guys that he hasn’t been around for two or three years. He just doesn’t feel comfortable right now with what his receivers are doing, he doesn’t have a tight end that’s any kind of threat at all until Gronkowski gets back, and I think that’s just had to change the way he’s played. There’s no question he’s still got the ability. You don’t lose it from one year to the next that quickly."
FILED UNDER - THIS IS A BAD IDEA:
Considering the ire that fans have shown in recent days regarding Brady's play, let's just hope they don't resort to what happened out in Houston when angry fans went to Texans quarterback Matt Shaub's residence and reportedly berated him for his recent poor play.
According to CBS Houston one fan "told him off", with each of them leaving after police were called and they were gone before the authorities got there. It's understandable that they're frustrated, especially after watching Shaub throw a pick-six in a an NFL-record four consecutive games. However, that's just uncalled for, and hopefully no one in this region never reaches that point with Brady should he ever struggle badly.
MANKINS GETTING IT DONE IN THE RUNNING GAME:
The Patriots don't tend to run behind left guard Logan Mankins very often, but when they do they seem to have a fair amount of success. Looking at the running back chart in our stats database the Patriots have run behind him 16 times this season for 117 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 7.3 yards-per-carry, which is the highest average out of all them. LeGarrette Blount is the player with the most carries over left guard, having carried 7 times for 68 yards (9.7 avg) and a score. Next is Stevan Ridley with 5 carries for 30 yards (6.0 avg), followed by Shane Vereen (2 carries, 12 yards, 6.0 avg) and Brandon Bolden (2 carries, 7 yards, 3.5 avg). New England has run the most this season behind left tackle, carrying 31 times for 150 yards, good for an average gain of 4.8 yards per carry.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots should worry about Graham, Sproles - Ben Volin - Volin writes the Patriots have two big problems to deal with Sunday when the Saints come to Foxborough — one tall, and one short.
Graham is team's latest TE challenge - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with a bit on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who has been a key contributor for the Saints this season.
ON FOOTBALL: Tom Brady was thrown off his game in Cincinnati - Ben Volin - Volin has his recap of what went down on Sunday following his weekly film review.
Reports hopeful on Rob Gronkowski return - Michael Whitmer - Whitemer talks about the reports on Tuesday surrounding the potential return of Gronkowski, with that question seemingly about to be answered this week.
Catching Up With Old Patriots Friends - Staff - The Globe has a slideshow looking at former Patriots and where they are now.
Scouting the New Orleans Saints - Erik Frenz - Frenz takes a closer look at the Saints, offering up some interesting stats in this piece.
Patriots' coaches brace for 5-0 Saints - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has notes from the conference calls from the coaches on Tuesday as they get ready to face New Orleans this weekend.
Notebook: Rob Gronkowski's return no done deal - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that while this weekend has been targeted for his return, Dr. James Andrews will still be in charge of the decision making process and will be involved in the final say.
Rob Gronkowski idea inaccurate - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that while Gronkowski's return will help the offense, it won't fix the drops and misfires that have plagued this team.
Catching up with former Patriots, Week 5 - Mike Reiss - Reiss has a look at former Patriots and what they've been doing with their new teams.
Kanorris Davis, Ja'Gared Davis clear - Field Yates - Yates writes that both players cleared waivers after being let go on Monday and are both free agents.
Getting Rob Gronkowski will help, but New England Patriots still have other issues to tackle - Nick Underhill - Underhill writes that getting the veteran tight end back will help the offense, but notes that he hasn't played in a game in 269 days, so even if he does play, he'll likely be eased back into action.
The Return of Gronk: take four - Rich Garven - Garven writes that no one expected Gronkowski to play in the Patriots first two games of the season, but having him return in week 3 - as many had thought would be the case during preseason - turned out to be nothing more than chatter.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: No time to panic over Pats - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his "ponderous thoughts", which leads off with the fact that despite the 13-6 loss in Cincinnati Sunday, he's not ready to panic, even if the 5-0 Saints come into Foxboro and lay a world of hurt on New England this weekend.
Patriots still in search of themselves - Kevin McNamara - McNamara writes that five games into the NFL season, the Patriots may sit atop the AFC East with just one loss but they remain a team searching for an identity.
Gronk's return will help, but won't be a cure-all for the Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley writes that the return of Gronkowski will be good for an offense that bordered between inept and invisible in their loss on Sunday.