The Patriots have been pretty well set at tight end for the past few years. Rob Gronkowski turned in the most productive season by a tight end in NFL history back in 2011. Aaron Hernandez can be top-three player at that position.
But injuries have thrown what was a humongous advantage for New England into a state of flux. Gronkowski has a left forearm infection stemming from a couple of breaks to the bone last season and may not be ready to play in September. Hernandez recently underwent shoulder surgery. So, who's next? It's former Giants tight end Jake Ballard .
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots have "high hopes for Ballard," but he is still on the long road to recovery after he tore his left ACL during the 2012 Super Bowl, in which the Ballard's Giants defeated the Patriots.
The Patriots might have high hopes for Ballard, but they really don't know what to expect from him this season. Howe suggests that the Pats may end up signing another free-agent tight end to help pick up the slack or even spend an early draft pick on that position.
I have no idea what to make of Gronkowski's tribulations. But reports on Hernandez's shoulder surgery make it seem relatively minor. He should be fine for the start of the season, and Ballard will most likely be an afterthought this year.