A bit shell shocked after last night's loss, but in a way not totally surprised. Don't think I wanted to admit it to myself, but I was worried about the impact of the Gronk injury. All season I've been worried about the thinness of the receiving corp. Yes, the improved running game is a big plus for this team, but we're still a pass-first team in a league where great offenses have to pass well. We need a diverse, high-quality selection of targets for Brady. Welker, Hernandez, and Lloyd all have great strengths but significant weaknesses too. Welker is a poor deep receiver (even when he beats the defender, he has trouble catching in full stride with his back to the ball). Hernandez is versatile, but also a tweener. Good at lots, not great at anything. And he's shown a tendency to get the dropsies at times. Lloyd seems to be good at one thing: catching the ball on the sideline (almost always while rolling on the ground negating any chance of YAC). Gronk gives us a beast with size and speed in the passing game and great blocking ability. Take him out of the equation, though, and this receiving corp looks not bad, but limited. I was never totally happy with the choice to keep four TEs and so few receivers. With Branch, Gaffney, Stallworth, and Brit in camp, there was clearly an attempt to find a receiver to complement Lloyd and Welker. But they cut all of them. Maybe none was good enough (and i see that too) but they then should have been bringing in a parade of guys in the 53rd slot to find someone who could at least give them something of a threat deep. They shouldn't have stopped with Salas.
As far as the defense goes, seeing guys like Arrington and Cole trying to defend legitimate NFL deep receivers like Boldin and Smith (and how does a ground and pound team like Baltimore have two when we have none?) is disheartening. Enough of mediocre D backs. And especially when our LBs are all run guys who aren't much in coverage. (Pass rush probably needs to be mentioned too, but we'll save that for some other time.)
Today's NFL is very much a passing league. How is it then, that we lack true wideouts on offense and have such limited coverage options on defense? When Talib went out last night, I had a sinking feeling that it was all over. As soon as Flacco started targeting Arrington and Cole repeatedly, it was clear where we were headed. Defense giving up lots of points. Offense without big play ability to come back. When losing just two guys--one on offense, Gronk, and one on defense, Talib-- causes the whole team to collapse, you are way too thin on talent. We have a lot of talent issues on the team, but shoring up the pass offense and pass defense have to be right at the top because right now it feels like (when Gronk and Talib are out) everyone runs right past us and we can't run past anyone.