Are Patriots more vulnerable than ever?

After losing Wes Welker in free agency, parting ways with Aaron Hernandez just prior to his arrest, and dealing with the uncertain start to the 2013 season for Rob Gronkowski, some are asking the question: Are the Patriots more vulnerable then ever?"

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com asks the question in a piece now posted on CBSSports.com.

As it relates to the AFC East, the team that many project to be the stiffest competition for the Patriots in their quest for a fifth-straight division title is the Miami Dolphins, whose new linebacker Dannell Ellbere was posed the question about the Patriots' vulnerability by Freeman.

"I think they are but you have to prove it, you can't just talk about it," Ellerbe replied, before later adding: "I was brought here to help knock them off. That doesn't mean we will, but we feel like we can. Like I said, we just have to prove it. You have to actually go do it."

Freeman notes that Ellbere isn't the only person in league circles suggesting that the Patriots can be had in the AFC East, a division they've controlled for much of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.

The team finished five games ahead of Miami in the division last season, but the Dolphins are hoping to narrow the gap behind the development of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a big spending period during free agency, highlighted by the additions of wide receiver Mike Wallace and Ellerbe.

Ultimately, Freeman concludes that the Dolphins could challenge the Patriots in 2013.

"It could finally happen. Could," he says.

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