The Patriots' offensive scheme is based around a pair of
tight ends that provide balance, flexibility and power. But when Aaron
Hernandez fell to the turf, writhing in agony, at Gillette Stadium on Sunday,
the base of New England's offensive nucleus came into question.
Luckily for Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack,
Hernandez's injury is not as serious as first thought and he should only miss a
few weeks of game action. But without one of their primary weapons in the meantime, New England would
need a good soldier to step up and make an impact.
During Kellen Winslow Jr.'s junior season at the University
of Miami, he made sure to let the world know that he was a "soldier." Now, after reportedly signing a
one-year deal to join the Patriots on Tuesday, Winslow may not be the good "foot soldier" that Wes Welker associates
with the likes of Rex Ryan,
but he will be serving his new team in their time of need.
Winslow, who worked out for the Patriots before the regular
season and, contrary to popular belief, did not fail his physical,
will allow Josh McDaniels to proceed with his offensive gameplan and force
limited, if any, change.
A big, athletic receiver with good blocking skills, Winslow
offers a lot of the same things that Hernandez brings to the Patriots offense.
Averaging 73 receptions and nearly 800 yards over the past three seasons,
Winslow should also cover the production lost in Hernandez's absence. The 6-foot-4 Winslow is 29 years old and is
essentially a taller, older version of the 6-foot-1, 22-year-old Hernandez.
This can only be seen as good news for New England in the interim.
Brady won't have to worry much about added attention being
given to primary options like Welker, Rob Gronkowski or Brandon Lloyd
because, even though he's been stuck on the free agent market, Winslow is still
a threat in the passing game. Stevan Ridley, meanwhile, shouldn't fret much either
as Winslow should be a strong replacement as a run blocker, if he's even called
upon to fill that role.
Yes, the Patriots offense took a big hit with the loss –
even if only limited — of Hernandez. But while the Patriots scratched their
heads, struggling to find an answer for the missing piece on Sunday against the
Cardinals, now they have a reasonable replacement.
Winslow might not be an answer for the Patriots long term.
Heck, he may not even be on the roster long after Hernandez returns to action.
But for the time being, the former Browns, Bucs and Seahawks tight end should
serve his role as the Patriots good soldier. And he'll do it admirably.