- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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LONDON -- Aaron Hernandez had a setback with his injured right ankle and will not play Sunday against the Rams, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton.
What does this mean for the Patriots' offense?
Hernandez hasn't been a full-time contributor on offense since his return from injury, playing 57 of 80 snaps Sunday against the Jets, and 38 of 87 the week before against the Seahawks. He totaled 11 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in those games.
So it's a matter of replacing those snaps/production, and the Patriots have a few options:
1. If they want to stick with multiple-tight end packages, six-year veteran Daniel Fells could see a rise in playing time alongside Rob Gronkowski. Fells, a former Ram, saw his playing time decrease upon Hernandez's return (down from an average of 40 snaps per game to 17.5 per game). He isn't as dynamic as Hernandez in the passing game but is a superior blocker. The Patriots have another former Ram, third-year man Michael Hoomanawanui, on the tight end depth chart.
2. If the Patriots feel that a third receiver gives them the best combination over a second tight end, Julian Edelman or Deion Branch would see his role increase.
A big factor for the Patriots figures to be how the Rams decide to play the two-TE package. Opponents have varied their approach against the Patriots, sometimes playing their base personnel, and other times playing a smaller nickel group.
If the Rams choose the nickel, the Patriots figure to attempt to get their running game going behind the two-TE grouping.
That would shine a brighter spotlight on Fells' filling Hernandez's void.