Hannable: Addition of Martellus Bennett could be key to Patriots making Super Bowl run

Ryan Hannable
November 09, 2017 - 11:12 pm

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBORO — It’s funny how things always seem to go the Patriots’ way.

The Patriots were clearly in need of more offensive firepower, especially at the tight end position. After the Packers released tight end Martellus Bennett Wednesday, 29 other teams had the chance to claim him off waivers, but he fell into New England’s hands.

There are a few things to consider with Bennett, though.

No. 1, his health. He was released with a failure to disclose a medical condition designation after missing the last game, and already was ruled out this week with a shoulder injury. He also hasn’t practiced in two weeks. No. 2, his mindset. He recently said he’s likely to retire after the season, so is his heart fully into it right now? Certainly, playing for the Patriots is different than the Packers without Aaron Rodgers, so a change of scenery back to a familiar place could cause that to change.

If he is indeed all-in and gets reasonably healthy in the next few weeks, he could be what the Patriots need to ride the playoff train all the way to Minnesota in February.

[UPDATE 8:45 a.m.]: According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Bennett has a torn rotator cuff, but may try and play through it. Obviously, this impacts expectations for the tight end.

Defensively, the Patriots have been playing better, but still don’t appear to have a unit which can lead them to the Super Bowl on its own. The offense has been inconsistent and is no longer capable of scoring 30+ points week-in and week-out. With the addition of Bennett, that could change somewhat. While 30+ points a game may be a little bit of a stretch, having Bennett gives the offense the opportunity to win games on its own, something it seemed incapable of doing before the move.

Just look at what the offense did last season when Bennett, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were all active.

In six games, the Patriots averaged 30.3 points per game and went 5-1. Taking things a step further, there were five games where all three played the entire game as Gronkowski left the Jets game at the end of November with a back injury in the first quarter. In those five games, Gronkowski totaled 24 catches for 529 yards and two touchdowns, while Bennett had 23 catches for 257 yards and three touchdowns. 

(It’s worth noting the Patriots also had Julian Edelman in those games, and won’t this year.)

Bennett’s presence will also make Gronkowski better. 

Gronkowski has been asked to do a ton this season with Dwayne Allen struggling to pick things up as the No. 2 tight end, and also the up-and-down play at tackle. The 28-year-old has been forced to play almost 100 percent of the snaps every game, which has forced him to self-admittedly be tired on a few plays, and also stay in and block more than usual.

Having Bennett around will allow Gronkowski to take a few plays off like he’s done in the past to ensure he’s at his best every play he's on the field, and also help to relieve some of the attention on him in the passing game.

Finally, Bennett should be able to bolster the Patriots’ red zone performance.

Going into Week 10, the Patriots are 19th in the league, scoring touchdowns on 50 percent of their red zone trips, but are really having issues on third down. The offense is 6-for-23 (26 percent) on third down in the red area, which is 26th in the NFL.

Bennett will help in this regard as in the red zone last year he caught eight passes on 10 targets for five touchdowns. The 80 percent catch percentage was the best in the NFL among tight ends.

The point of this certainly isn’t to suggest the Patriots are going to reach the Super Bowl just because they now have Bennett, but he does help fill a big hole in the offense. A highly productive offense takes some of the pressure off the defense and obviously increases the Patriots’ chances of winning games.

Thanks, Green Bay. 

Sincerely, New England.

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