It’s mostly tears over cheers for the late games, with far more notable inactives than actives. Pessimism > optimism.
Aaron Hernandez (Ankle): No surprise here. Despite the optimism and the encouraging early return to practice Thursday, Hernandez is inactive again. Rob Gronkowski will continue to get more targets along with Wes Welker, who doesn’t have anyone to take away his slot workload, especially with Julian Edelman (hand) also out again. Expect Hernandez to be back for Week 6 after the progress he made this week.
Jon Beason (Knee): Rookie Luke Kuechly will start at middle linebacker with Beason out. While Beason is the defensive anchor for Carolina and one of the few efficient tacklers on a poor rushing D, Kuechly isn’t much of a downgrade.
Laurent Robinson (concussion): With Robinson out, Justin Blackmon becomes the primary deep option for Blaine Gabbert, assuming of course that Gabbert is capable of completing a pass with some degree of frequency today.
Rob Gronkowski (hip): Gronk is active, which is about as surprising as Hernandez being inactive. But there’s growing concern here about an injury that could linger, and eventually become a problem. As ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss relayed earlier today, Gronkowski has been dealing with severe hip pain over the last two weeks which has led to several missed practices, and a scaled back workload in others. Next week when Hernandez returns, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could begin to lighten Gronkowski’s targets and spread the workload between his two tight ends more evenly. Uh oh?