With the news that Rob Gronkowski will have to undergo yet another sugery, the Patriots are once again preparing for life without their big, dominant tight end.
The operation to repair Gronk's herniated disc gives him a timetable to return around the time of the AFC Championship or the Super Bowl, if the Patriots make it that far.
Here are some other members of the Pats' offense that will need to step up in Gronk's absence if New England hopes to survive long enough for No. 87 to return this season.
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Martellus Bennett, TE
This is an obvious one. With Gronk out of the lineup, Bennett slides into the No. 1 tight end spot, a place that's not unfamiliar to him. The veteran had been signed in New England in hopes of helping form a fearsome dual TE threat that the Patriots have missed since, well...you know.
Now, instead, Bennett will become more of an insurance policy, and he has potential to be quite a great one. He has 42 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns this season. Those are solid numbers to this point -- especially since he's been playing banged up -- but he'll see an increased role moving forward.
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Malcolm Mitchell, WR
With the Patriots needing to move away from their two tight end sets, that means the 23-year-old Mitchell will likely see more snaps and an increased workload at wide receiver.
Mitchell has been solid in his first season in New England and he's proven to be a dangerous threat after the catch. We all know that Gronk can drag multiple defenders down the field with apparent ease, but Mitchell has potential to be a true breakout playmaker if he can get his touches.
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Julian Edelman, WR
You can make the argument that this has been the case all along, but now there's really no arguing that the Patriots offense runs through Edelman.
The shifty and elusive wideout is his quarterback's favorite target and leads the team with 64 catches for 617 yards and two touchdowns. The success of the Pats' offense often hinges on Edelman's ability to get open on quick, short routes.
With the red-level threat of Gronk off the table, defenses will be able to key-in on Edelman more, so the wideout is going to have to step up his game to overcome the extra pressure coming his way.
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Dion Lewis, RB
Lewis is still working on shaking off the rust -- he only returned from last season's torn ACL just two weeks ago -- yet he's already shown why he's an important part of the Patriots' backfield-by-committee.
In the two weeks since Lewis has been active, Lewis, LeGarrette Blount and James White have averaged 191.5 yards from scrimmage. All three will need to step up and do their part to in a versatile Patriots offense, but Lewis might be the key.
The quick, undersized running back is extremely elusive and a noteworthy threat both on the ground and in the passing game. If he can stay effective and healthy, he'll be a great safety valve for Brady out of the backfield.
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Tom Brady, QB
It may seem a bit unfair to say that a quarterback needs to be better after one of his (and the entire league's) most dangerous weapons goes down with a long-term injury.
But, for as well as Brady has played to this point in the season (spoiler: he's been at an MVP level), now he's got even more pressure on him.
Not surprisingly, Brady has been a much better QB when Gronk is on the field than when he's off it. Since 2010, Brady's passer rating is 105.0 with his tight end, and 84.0 without.
Still, the 39-year-old Brady is the fearless leader that the Pats and their fans turn to in times of adversity, so now he has help get them through it by pulling a magic act and finding an even higher level of success without one of his favorite targets.