How will Brady deal with losing Welker, Woodhead?

How will Brady deal with losing Welker, Woodhead?
March 15, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Third down and six.

Everyone knows the ball is going to Wes Welker.

First down Patriots.

Now what?

Wes Welker is gone, and so are his 118 catches from last season. Same for Danny Woodhead and his 446 receiving yards.

Together, Welker and Woodhead combined for 229 targets last season and now Tom Brady and the Patriots need to find a way to replace that production. More importantly, how do they replace the comfort? There was an undeniable chemistry between Welker and Brady and more often than not it led to successful drives for the Patriots. Can Danny Amendola replicate that?

The New England Patriots have become known for their "next man up" mentality, where everyone on the roster is expected to step in and fill in for the guy ahead of them on the depth chart. But check out these numbers from last season:

Welker - 118 rec, 1354 yards, 6 TD
Woodhead - 40 rec, 446 yards, 3 TD

Danny Amendola - 63 rec, 666 yards, 3 TD
Donald Jones - 41 rec, 443 yards, 4 TD

Amendola and Jones didn't even combine to match the production of Welker. Keep in mind that Amendola will be joining an offense that figures to boost his production, so the numbers don't stand on their own. But what is obvious, is that Tom Brady will need to look somewhere else in crunch time, and what used to be a sure thing, may be more of a hand-wring.

One interesting suggestion from the Sports Tonight crew, is the use of Aaron Hernandez in the slot position. Hernandez has filled a number of roles in his time with the Patriots but Lou Merloni cautions against that approach.

Yes, the Patriots have two All-World tight ends in Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, but both have an extensive injury history. Increasing their role in the offense, and sending Hernandez over the middle on those slot receiver routes, increases the odds of injury.

Woodhead is slightly easier to replace with Merloni suggesting that Shane Vereen could slide into that role.

And what about the fans? What about the people who revered Welker and embraced his scrappy underdog mentality?

Dan Shaughnessy has a simple observation for that: Bill Belichick doesn't care. He's going to do what's best for the team.

Belichick has never been one to cater to the desire of fans or mainstream media and he certainly won't start now.

Only time will tell if the decision to let Welker and Woodhead walk was a good one.

We'll find out next season on third and six.