From now until the start of training camp, Tom E. Curran will pose -- and answer -- questions facing the Patriots. Today's question:
What's the offensive identity?
It’s really amazing when you think about it. A team that is among the favorites to win the Super Bowl, a team that wins its division in a walk every season will -- for the second straight year -- begin training camp with more questions than answers on its offense.
Of course one of the answers they do provide -- Tom Brady -- covers up a lot of the confusion. But the burden is significant.
Along the offensive line, there’s a new position coach for the first time since Eugene Chung was a rookie. Sebastian Vollmer’s coming back from a broken leg, Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell had spotty 2013 seasons and Logan Mankins had some lapses as well. In the backfield, LeGarrette Blount is gone leaving the talented and butterfingered Mr. Ridley as the default lead back and also Shane Vereen, who has yet to negotiate a season without getting hurt.
At wide receiver, Julian Edelman is a check mark but Danny Amendola’s track record makes him impossible to rely upon. Aaron Dobson needed offseason foot surgery and is rehabbing from that still. Kenbrell Thompkins petered out late. Brandon LaFell has created significant optimism this spring. The qualifier? His former coach Ron Rivera told me in March that people in New England will love everything about LaFell except that sometimes he drops easy throws. Oh. That.
A lot comes down to Rob Gronkowski. And his indication that he hopes to play the entire season is a very big development. Behind him, there’s little threat at the position. (We could mention here that taking Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz in the second round instead of Jimmy Garoppolo could have fixed that, but…)
If everybody plays to their potential and annual injury issues don’t visit Amendola, Gronkowski and Vereen, the offense will be as explosive as anyone’s. And that includes Denver. But the group identity will be a work in progress early in the year.