It would appear that, after a long hiatus, Hank has once again reared his ugly head.
For those of you who haven't been around the Pulpit for very long, I should probably explain. While I'm a pretty optimistic person in almost all facets of my life, when it comes to Patriots football I'm very quick to go the complete opposite route. As most of my writing can illustrate, when it comes to this team I'm an obsessive, whiny, paranoid worrywart who always assumes the worst before he'll hope for the best. And because of that, I've name my inner Patriots fan Hank. I don't know where the name came from - maybe because I once knew a guy named Hank and I got nervous just being around him - but wherever the name originated, that's what we're talking about here.
Amazingly, Hank has been pretty quiet over the past few seasons. Maybe it's because the Patriots are Super Bowl champs. Maybe it's because they are currently undefeated and were never really at a point this season where the game was in doubt. Or maybe I'm just getting more mature as I continue to age. Whatever the reason, I have actually found myself enjoying Patriots games this year as opposed to spending the entire contest a nervous wreck. And because of that, I haven't really had to deal with Hank all that much.
Well not anymore. When today's news broke that Dion Lewis was out for the year with an ACL injury, news that most of us probably expected but hoped against hope wouldn't actually be announced, Hank came storming up from wherever he has been hiding all year and tried to barrel through my defenses like LeGarrette Blount on the entire Colts defense. The thought of losing Lewis, who has been a matchup nightmare who is almost impossible to tackle and offers the kind of versatility the Patriots haven't seen until 2014 when Shane Vereen did almost the exact same things, hasn't been sitting well with me for the past day or so, and I'd silly to ignore Hank any longer.
So I may as well let him have his moment here. Here is what Hank has been screaming at me since yesterday afternoon, and here's what I have to say right back at him.
But Alec, Dion Lewis was one of the most elusive, explosive players on the Patriots offense! Now defenses don't have to account for him!
Shut up, Hank. Great analysis right there; with Lewis out, defenses don't have to account for him. No wonder I keep you around. You know who defenses will still have to account for? Gronk. Edelman. LaFell. Blount. Amendola. A slowly emerging Scott Chandler. Whoever the Patriots use to replace Lewis. And Tom Brady. There are so many weapons on this offense, and the next man is just going to have to step up. I'll look forward to you trying to tell me how Bill Belichick is an overrated coach the day after James White has seven catches for 123 yards and a TD in a few weeks.
But Alec, the offensive line is in shambles! Rob Gronkowski is going to have stay in to block more and won't be a passing threat so defenses can key in on Edelman! The entire offense is going to stall!
Shut up, Hank. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were a card-carrying member of the anti-Patriots crowd who has become incredibly adept at ignoring history and evidence and assuming every move that New England makes is going to come back and bite them in the ass. Julian Edelman isn't even remotely an adequate replacement for Wes Welker. Letting Darrelle Revis walk means that the Patriots defense is going to be a sieve in 2015. Cutting Lawyer Milloy is going to cause the entire team to turn against their coach. Losing Lewis is going to trickle down so that the entire Patriots offense won't be able to get anything done. Just stop it. You sound like an idiot. The Patriots will be fine because they have Tommy B and Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels and they will figure this out because that it just what they do. You can go with your gut for certain things, but when the team has a track record like this, eventually you're just going to have to let it go.
But Alec, Lewis was the lead back for the Patriots! Our running game is completely one-dimensional now!
Shut up, Hank. Did you really just use the words "one-dimensional" when referring to the Patriots? Seriously? Sure, LeGarrette Blount is a different kind of back and won't be juking guys out of their jocks every week, but to say that the loss of Lewis suddenly makes the Patriots running game predictable is absolutely insane. Whether they instill new plays, do more Jet sweeps/reverses/quick screens, or change up the base formations, the Patriots will always find a way to keep defenses guessing and ensure that the Tommy B playaction remains as effective as it has ever been. And if you don't believe me, kindly point me to a few instances in the past where the loss of a running back ended up making the Pats one-dimensional.
But Alec, Dion Lewis was a hug part of the offense and led to lots of first downs and scores! How are the Patriots supposed to duplicate that kind of production??
Shut up, Hank. I honestly have absolutely no clue how the Patriots are going to replace Lewis in this offensive system. But you know who does have a clue? Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. There are running backs on the roster, and available via Free Agency, that New England can utilize in the role. And while I would be foolish to say that anybody the Patriots dress or bring in to replace Lewis for this season will be able to completely duplicate his skillset, I will go ahead and say that said running back's abilities will be cultivated and the offense will adjust to best capitalize on those abilities. Not to take anything away from Lewis, but one of the reasons he was so successful here is because the coaching staff knew how to custom-tailor schemes and plays in a manner that allowed him to put his shiftiness on full display; We're likely going to see the same thing for James White or Dri Archer or Cadet or whoever it is that ends up coming in to fill the role. And for the record, shortly after Lewis went down, Brandon Bolden had a beautiful 12 yard scamper and then caught a sideline Go Route for six when Brady motioned him out wide and exploited the coverage mismatch. Just sayin.'