New England Patriots: Pats Need Aaron Hernandez Back More Than Julian Edelman

Jimmy KelleyCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Tight end Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots celebrates a 12 yard touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It almost seems unfair for New England Patriots fans to complain about the injuries of Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman. These two were New England's primary passing targets for over a week's worth of plays before Hernandez went down, but you wouldn't know it by watching the team play.

The Patriots scored 52 points—including an NFL record 45 in the second half—against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Rob Gronkowski were on the receiving end of most of Tom Brady's passes which begs the question: does this offense really miss Hernandez and Edelman?

My answer is two-fold. The Patriots miss Hernandez, but they can make due without Edelman.

Having set up camp on Welker's side, the injury to Edelman has not made me lose any sleep. He was merely taking snaps away from an All-Pro for some reason that only Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels know for sure, and he was doing so with mixed success.

While Edelman was simply Welker 2.0—or a clone with some skills bred out, can't be totally sure at this point—Hernandez is one of the most unique players we have seen in recent memory. He runs routes like a wide receiver and is capable of doing things with the ball in his hand that few tight ends can even imagine.

Calling Hernandez a tight end is like calling an Escalade an SUV. Sure, it has the size and power you'd expect to get out of an SUV, but are you really going to take it off road? The same can be said about Hernandez and making him do tight end things, it just isn't worth it when he can produce in so many other ways.

When Hernandez is able to return to the field, the possibilities seem endless for this offense. Is 60 points really that outlandish? 600 passing yards for Brady? You almost have to wipe the expectation slate clean if they can keep things rolling along like they did against Buffalo.

Now I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you the Bills were the Steelers' Iron Curtain from the '70s. That being said, the things the Patriots were able to accomplish against that unit were so impressive— especially in the running game—that the memories of Arizona and Baltimore fade a bit.

Replacing Deion Branch with Hernandez in some of the personnel groupings that Belichick likes to send out is a frightening proposition for anyone forced to deal with it. With all of the weapons mentioned above, the possibility of double coverage seems ludicrous and every defensive coordinator in the league knows what happens when you try to play zone against Brady.

So as Hernandez and Edelman continue to mend, perhaps send a bit more of that positive energy towards the big guy's ankle. Edelman could use some more time to watch Welker.