The Patriots are undefeated heading into Week 7, but it would be inaccurate to say New England has been firing on all cylinders this season.
There’s obviously no cause for concern over the Patriots’ defense, as the unit just might be the NFL’s best. But on the other side of the ball, it’s largely been pedestrian outings from Tom Brady and Co.
The mediocre offensive output has been somewhat of a surprise, as Brady still has Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and a few versatile running backs at his disposal. But if you ask three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma, one critical hole within New England’s offense makes it far less intimidating than it was in years past.
“Not at all,” Vilma said Friday on ESPN’s “Get Up!” when asked if he fears the Patriots’ offense. “I feared their offense when they had Aaron Hernandez, they had Rob Gronkowski, they had, on the outside, Randy Moss. I feared them because those tight ends were so special and dynamic, it was always a mismatch whether it was us as linebackers guarding them or safeties. They created those mismatches, and right now the Patriots don’t have that tight end to go to. They don’t have a Rob Gronkowski. They even had Ben Watson back in ’04 when he got drafted. Right now it’s Edelman, and that’s it.”
The Patriots have received little from their tight ends thus far this season. Some of this might be due to injury, as Matt LaCosse reportedly has been dealing with a sprained MCL. Ryan Izzo does have a touchdown to his name, but the second-year pro has been exposed in the blocking game, something New England never had to worry about when Gronkowski was in the mix.
Help might be on the way in the form of Benjamin Watson, who the Patriots reportedly re-signed Monday after releasing him last week. Watson seemingly will be an upgrade from LaCosse and Izzo, but what really can you expect from a soon-to-be-39-year-old who is coming off a season in which he only played four games?
As such, it wouldn’t be shocking to see tight end remain an issue for New England as the season unfolds.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images