All hands on deck for Patriots

Do not expect New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to be back anytime soon. A source tells the AFC East blog that Hernandez is expected to miss a few weeks with a right ankle injury.

The Patriots have enough weapons on offense, which includes Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker and receivers Brandon Lloyd and Julian Edelman. But Hernandez was the glue to keep this group together.

Hernandez was the most versatile skill player in New England. He had the speed of a receiver, the size of a tight end and the moves of a running back. Hernandez was the wild card who was able to do just about anything Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick asked of him.

It’s time for Gronkowski, Welker, Lloyd and Edelman to pick up the slack. Each player must do a little more to replace Hernandez’s lost production. This may benefit the Patriots in the long run when Hernandez returns.

The Patriots are in a tight spot at 1-1 following the unexpected loss to the Arizona Cardinals. New England has two tough road games upcoming against the Baltimore Ravens (1-1) on Sunday and the Buffalo Bills (1-1) on Sept. 30, and a home game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (1-0) on Oct. 7. All three games are very dangerous for the Patriots, who were expected to cruise through the regular season.

But it will take all hands on deck for New England to get through this stretch. The Ravens, Bills and Broncos all became much tougher games to win without Hernandez.