Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged Tuesday the New England offense has some experience when it comes to playing without Rob Gronkowski — the big tight end has missed most of 13 games over the last year-plus — and the group will have to rely on that background going forward.
“Any time you lose a player like that — or you can’t use a player like that — you need to put your time into a few different things, and other people have to play different roles,” McDaniels said of Gronkowski, who will now be out for the rest of the 2013 season because of a knee injury. “You play offense a little differently, and we do have experience doing that.
“We did it at the beginning of this year for a significant number of weeks, we did it in the offseason, we did it last year during the course of the season as well, so we’ve experienced this before. I think for that reason, we kind of have an idea of exactly what we need to use and how to kind of formulate our game plan to max out our strengths and try to make up for the loss of a very unique player.”
As was the case when the Patriots lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo on the defensive side of the ball, McDaniels said that the job of trying to replace Gronkowski won’t fall solely to one individual.
“I think the thing that we rely on the most from one week to the next has always been trying to figure out what part of our offensive system to use to maximize the strengths of the players that we have available for us that week against the strengths of the opponent that we’re playing that week as well,” McDaniels said. “For us, the formula’s not going to change.”
At various points of the 2013 season, the New England offense has had to make do without Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon, and in each case, the group has had to adjust accordingly. While making a point to say that Gronkowski is an undeniable talent, McDaniels said Tuesday the overriding philosophy will be the same.
“We have the players that we have, we love the guys that we have to play offense with — we’re just missing one of them that’s certainly a very good player,” McDaniels said. “So we go to work, and we figure out exactly what the right formula for us is this week to try to win the game against the Dolphins, and then we’ll worry about next week next week.”
On Tuesday, McDaniels also discussed what makes Vereen such a unique player. The running back out of Cal — who has 40 catches and 38 carries — has become one of the best multidimensional threats in the AFC in a relative short time.
“Shane works extremely hard,” McDaniels said. “He’s really intelligent and studies diligently each week to know the opponent and to know what his role in the game plan is and to make sure that he’s on top of everything that he needs to be on top of. He’s a guy that has versatility, certainly, that allows us to do some different things with him, but I go back to his preparation and his ability to handle that, because if you can’t handle those different things, it’s hard to even get lined up to attempt to do them. Shane can not only do that, but go out and execute them and make plays while he’s outside of the formation, in the backfield, running the ball, protecting, whatever it may be.
“He’s a valuable guy to have, and one of the things I thought he did well the other day, along with making some plays when he had the football in his hands, was he did a good job in pass protection, which I know doesn’t necessarily get mentioned that much. You don’t necessarily recognize that until something happens in a negative fashion, but he did a nice job of picking up blitzers the other day when we needed him to.”