Tom Brady has been having a field day with opposing defenses by using his talented tight end duo. So with Aaron Hernandez now sidelined with a sprained MCL, he'll have to alter how he runs the Patriots' offense.
Brady has a history of bringing out the best in players, and he'll be under more pressure to so in the coming weeks. Prior to going down with his injury, Hernandez had 14 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Rob Gronkowski, the only tight end on the Pats' roster for Sunday's game against the Bills, will undoubtedly continue to make his presence felt. He has 10 catches for 172 yards through the first two games, and his three touchdowns are a reminder of how much Brady loves to utilize him the red zone.
But it's the Patriots' wide receivers who should see an increased work load in the wake of Hernandez's injury, as they'll each likely see more snaps now with the Patriots' inability to use two tight end sets.
Wes Welker and Deion Branch are off to fantastic starts. They each have 15 catches through two games, and are Brady's top targeted players. Welker has been targeted 22 times and has recorded 241 yards to go with two touchdowns. Branch has been targeted 19 times and has compiled 222 receiving yards.
Both Welker and Branch have already played a major role this season and will receive even more attention with Hernandez out, but the team's other wideouts will also be given an opportunity to show their value.
Chad Ochocinco has only been targeted five times during the first two weeks, hauling in three catches for 59 yards. He could now be called upon more often, during which we'll get to see if he can still produce at a Pro-Bowl level.
Julian Edelman only has one catch so far, but we've seen Brady use him frequently before, mostly out of the slot in a Wes Welker-type role.