New England

Who Will the Patriots Miss Most From 2018?

You know, besides the greatest tight end of all time

Seventeen of New England's 22 starters from Super Bowl LIII are still on the 90-man roster for the Patriots, as are 34 of the 45 players who took the field for at least one snap in the game.

Who'll they miss the most?

It's not rocket science: the greatest tight end of all time left a Grand Canyon-sized abyss. Even if Rob Gronkowski was a shell of himself for the majority of 2018, there's no replacing the larger-than-life figure Gronk represented.

(And to the Patriots' credit, they've done very little to try and fill the Gronk-shaped void at tight end. They didn't even bring back Dwayne Allen.)

The original purpose of this exercise was to figure out whose presence would be missed the most in Foxboro aside from Gronkowski, but it's become clear that the answer is no one, really.

That isn't to say the Patriots couldn't find a use for Trey Flowers or Trent Brown, in particular. What roster in the NFL couldn't use Pro Bowl-caliber players at left tackle or pass rusher?

Now that Isaiah Wynn appears fully healthy and ready to rock at left tackle, though, it's unlikely there'll be any need to fret about who's protecting Tom Brady's blindside at any point moving forward.

Could the Patriots use greater depth behind Wynn? Of course. That isn't to say they'll be clamoring for swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle back at any point, either.

Flowers is a unique case in that his statistics never popped off the page, never managing more than 7.5 sacks in his three full seasons as a contributor in New England. That said, he's a guy who started three straight Super Bowls and finished in the top 10 in the NFL in quarterback hits and total pressures in 2018.

Between the import of Michael Bennett and drafting of Chase Winovich, the Patriots seem to have the edge covered on defense, especially as they transition to what will be a predominantly 3-4 base defense.

You may not be enamored with New England's wide receiver group yet — it's still not a strength, as some have suggested — but that has nothing to do with the departures of Chris Hogan or Cordarrelle Patterson. Not that preseason is a great indicator of how things are going, but Hogan has but one catch through three preseason games for the Carolina Panthers.

Sure, Patterson's constant home run threat as a kick returner would be a nice luxury to have for any NFL team. In the age of touchbacks, however, Patterson only had 22 return attempts in 2018. The Patriots will get by just fine.

You want to say New England will miss recently jettisoned Ryan Allen as a holder? I'll tell you that something else will have gone horribly wrong long before we're talking about blaming Jake Bailey's holds (though Tony Romo may disagree).

Elsewhere across the roster, you've probably already forgotten about Malcom Brown and Adrian Clayborn. It's next man up.

The "next man up" philosophy, while as cliché as clichés can possibly be, holds true on a roster constructed the way New England's is.

Injuries and other issues will undoubtedly pop up at some point during the regular season, but you won't be pining for the good old days of 2018 to fix any of it. Tight end aside, this looks to be one of the deeper outfits Belichick has built in Foxboro.

Let's not 100 percent rule out the return of Gronk, either.

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