On Friday night another star player suffered a season ending injury in a meaningless preseason game, this time it was Julian Edelman.
On a second and three, Brady dumped the ball off to Edelman two yards from the line of scrimmage. Edelman did what he does best and cut it up field for an 18 yard gain. That play is what usually makes the Patriots so dangerous; their patented option route, this time rookie Jarrod Davis was the victim.
Edelman went directly at the rookie forcing him to make a split second decision to either cover the inside or the outside. Davis started to turn his body to the outside and Edelman immediately broke inside and broke off a big gain, a play that would be Edelman’s last of 2017 as it resulted in his knee giving out.
How will this injury effect the Patriots Super Bowl hopes? Well it’s actually fairly simple. While Edelman will certainly be missed, as long as Brady is healthy and performing than so will the Patriots.
That’s not to take anything away from Edelman who is one of the most competitive, gritty, and clutch receivers in the game. It’s more of a reflection on how good Brady is and how deep they are at receiver.
Replacing the chemistry that Brady and Edelman have is going to be tough. Brady trusts Edelman to make the big catch in the big moment (like he’s done in the past two super bowls) and not having him in December and January is going to be a tough adjustment for Brady.
The places were Edelman will be missed the most is on third downs, and punt returns. The impact Edelman has on third downs is eye popping: In the first nine games of the season the Patriots went undefeated and converted thirds down at about a 41 percent rate. After Edelman broke his foot the Patriots went 3-4 and converted only 32 percent. the impact that Edelman has on not only third downs but on the teams overall performance can’t be glossed over.
Edelman has been the Patriots anchor on punt returns throughout the years, Belichick always has the option to send him out there if his return man is struggling or if he just needs a spark. Without Edelman, back there the Patriots are put in a tough spot; either they let Amendola take over and add more wear and tear to his already injury prone body, or they have Cyrus Jones take the reigns who is seemingly a bad turnover waiting to happen.
Brady will have to depend on Gronkowski and Amendola much more this season as he has built solid on the field chemistry with both the past few years. But both of them are major injury questions. Having them on the field every week let alone at 100% is a question mark.
The Patriots will probably do what they have always done when they need to fill a hole in their roster: They will depend on the group to fill the void rather than one singular player.
Chris Hogan, and Brandin Cooks will have to pick up some of the slack on the outside, while Dwayne Allen is a very solid blocker which should allow Belichick to be more creative in the way he uses Gronk in the passing game.
Malcolm Mitchell could be moved to play the slot this year to help fill the void after coming off a solid rookie season. Even James White (who has played about the same amount of snaps at receiver as he has at running back for the Patriots) and Rex Burkhead (who is also a fairly versatile back) will be entrusted with more targets on third downs.
Overall the Edelman injury is certainly a blow to the Patriots (yet another example that 4 preseason games is bad for football) but a sustainable one.
Just remember they still have Brady and as long as he’s healthy the Patriots are going to be in it.
Featured Image: Aug 25, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) holds his leg in pain after a play during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports