McDaniels: Can't replace Gronkowski

The Patriots have turned the page after their Week 14 win over the Cleveland Browns, with a focus now on the Miami Dolphins, their Week 15 foe.

Offensively, the challenge this week is not only sizing up the Dolphins' defense, but game planning without tight end Rob Gronkowski, placed on injured reserved Monday afternoon.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dissected the process of trying to account for Gronkowski's absence.

"I don't think you can replace a player like that, a guy that can do so many unique things, with anybody," he said. "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 do you use to maximize the strengths of the players that we have available for us that week against the strengths of the opponent we're playing that week as well.

"And so I think for us the formula's not going to change, the variables that can we use, however, will and I think that happens a lot during the course of the season," he continued.

For the Patriots, that could mean more of a reliance on tight ends Matthew Mulligan, recently re-signed D.J. Williams and perhaps Michael Hoomanawanui, who is working his way back from a knee injury.

Playing without Gronkowski is not necessarily a new challenge for the Patriots -- he missed 11 games dating back to last season before making his 2013 debut -- though McDaniels doesn't know whether playing without Gronkowski previously makes them better equipped to do so again now.

"I think we've experienced playing without him before and I think that -- I don't know if we're better equipped," he said. "I'm not exactly sure how to rate that, I just know that any time you lose a player like that where you can't use a player like that, you need to put your time in to a few different things and other people have to play different roles and you just play offense a little differently."

With a trip to Miami on the horizon, McDaniels and the rest of the offensive staff are focused on ways to maximize the healthy personnel on the roster for this Sunday and going forward.

"I think we kind of have an idea exactly what we need to use, how to kind of formulate our game plan to max out our strengths and try to make up for the loss of a unique player," he said.