Every Patriots fan would likely admit that Tom Brady is the most important player on the team. His brilliance over the years has always given New England an opportunity to win each and every week. But the Patriots have generally been considered one of the truly great teams, a group of players whose collective will always exceeds its individual talent.
Even though that's largely true, we decided to tackle the subject of singling out the most indispensible player on the team (other than Brady, of course). There are a number of schools of thought that could come in play. First, since the defense has trailed the offense in performance in recent years, would that disqualify anyone on that side of the ball, or would you consider the team's best defensive player under the premise that things would really collapse without him?
Either theory would have some merit, but Team PFW is sticking with the offense this week as we answer the following Samsonie Make Your Case:
Other than Tom Brady, which player is most indispensible to the Patriots?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
The Patriots don't have anyone on the roster who can do all of the things that Gronkowski does, and few are responsible for more things than the All-Pro tight end. Gronkowski is a huge weapon in both the running and passing games; not many players in the league can say that, and certainly no one on the Patriots.
Even if he wasn't the gifted pass-catcher that he is, Gronkowski would still be valuable both as a lead blocker and pass protector. Couple those skills with his ability to put pressure on defenses as a receiver — especially in the red zone — and the Patriots offense is awfully tough to deal with.
The team has always found ways to survive the loss of key personnel but Gronkowski's record-setting campaign a year ago would be awfully tough to replace. Who is going to catch 17 touchdowns and punish defenders in the secondary the way he does.
If Gronkowski were missing for any length of time, I'm not sure the team has a player who could ably fill his spot, and therefore, other than Tom Brady, he has to be considered the Patriots most indispensible player.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
In all honesty, it's hard to argue against Gronkowski. He does so many things for the offense, and offense is such a big part of the team's success, that losing him would certainly be a blow. But that's the simplistic view and not surprisingly the one that Andy immediately jumped on.
I look at some common themes as to why the Patriots have lost some big games in recent seasons and I always come back to the offensive line. Most weeks the unit is solid, but every once in a while things break down, and when that happens and Tom Brady doesn't have enough time to throw, the team almost always loses.
Nate Solder is moving into the left tackle spot to replace Matt Light. I'm confident he can do the job with his size and athleticism, but if he were to get injured I don't have similar faith in any other player. Sebastian Vollmer is talented enough to do it — and has in the past when Light was injured — but his health worries me.
Solder is the key to keeping the offensive line together and making sure it stays that way is the overall key to the offense. And in my opinion, the Patriots success is predicated on scoring a lot of points.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.