There's no doubt about it, one team in particular going into the 2013 NFL training camps, will have a lot of problem solving to do. During The New England Patriots' off-season the team had a number of arrivals and departures of key players. So crucial in fact that a few stories have made big news not only around the league, but the nation as well.
Aaron Hernandez has officially been charged with murder and other various charges; soon after his arrest the Patriots dropped him from the team. Wes Welker is now a Denver Bronco and Tim Tebow is a New England Patriot. The timeline for Rob Gronkowski's return from off season surgeries is questionable. I'm sure, no one saw any of this drama coming.
Here are 5 Pressing Questions Heading into New England Patriots Training Camp:
1) Aaron Hernandez has been dropped from the team and Rob Gronkowski is out until further notice, what's the tight end situation going to look like?
It's official, Aaron Hernandez has traded in his Patriots uniform for prison garb. The Patriots have moved on too. They've begun offering fans a chance to exchange their Hernandez' jerseys for an alternate player. With Hernandez out of sight and out of mind, the Patriots need to keep powering ahead into 2013.
Rob Gronkowski will be back, but the question now is when. In the off season he's been through a couple of surgeries that will potentially keep him out of training camp for an indefinite amount of time.
During this time players like Tim Tebow can take the opportunity to get one-on-one time in with coaches and trainers. In the off season the Patriots also picked up tight end Jake Ballard (formerly of the New York Giants) off waivers. His production last season ranked him 7th (four ranks above Hernandez) in Football Insiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement). Given that statistic, he has the potential to shine in New England. However, Ballard needs to remain healthy and be back to his true self to do so.
2) Who will step up in an attempt to fill Wes Welker's shoes?
Heading into 2013 the Patriots are without two of their pass options. Wes Welker who signed a two year, $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos was the team's all-time leader in receptions. Running Back Danny Woodhead caught 40 passes last year, but has signed with the San Diego Chargers. Brandon Lolyd's status with the team is up in the air due to tension with his agent and the Patriot's front office. Also at this point Deion Branch is still a free agent and his future with the team is looking bleak. With that being said the new addition of Danny Amendola will prove crucial in the rebuilding of the receiving group. Furthermore, the Patriots have re-signed Julian Edelman who could prove key, as long as he remains healthy(Last season was cut short due to a broken foot). The newcomers will be expected to step up right away. There won't be much time for anything less.
3) Will the addition of Tim Tebow benefit the Patriots?
Seeing that the Patriots are lacking receivers and dependable tight ends, the Patriots could benefit a lot from Tebow. They're the team in the NFL known for taking in the unwanted and making them flourish. They aren't always successful (i.e. Chad Johnson), but when they are it proves huge for the team. If Tebow can buckle down and acclimate to the Bellichick's style of play, he can shine in a tight end and/or wide receiver position.
4) How will the Patriots continue to build and remain the #1 AFC East contender?
To do so they have to fix all of the problems that have plagued them in the off season. They've attempted to make solutions to their passing game with the addition of Tim Tebow, Jake Ballard and Danny Amendola. By retaining Julian Edelman, they now need to try and hold onto veteran, Deion Branch. Branch can help and mentor the new additions to the team and work to get them acclimated to Belichick's playing style.
The Miami Dolphins have been greatly talked about in the off season as potential threats to the Patriots reign of the division. They would be wise to not take this warning lightly. The Patriots have done well over the years to not let these certain bumps in the road distract them from winning. However, in the 2013 season they will have their work cut out for them.
5) Considering all of the off season distractions, how will the organization effectively handle the growing media frenzy?
Bill Belichick has already started to ready the media on how he will address them when he feels he's being pestered with redundant questions. Following Tim Tebow's arrival reporters badgered Belichick with numerous Tebow questions and he had no problem blowing them off. Even at one point plainly replying, "We're going to do what we think is best for our football team.”
The New England Patriots and Bob Kraft will have a lot of problem solving ahead of them and how they push through these hiccups will potentially show how successful their 2013 season will ultimately be.