Don’t think Edelman’s injury will change the season outlook in New England
Forget Brady vs Belichick. Forget Deflate-gate. Forget all accusations ever leveled against the Patriots. Let’s just sit back and watch, because Tom Brady has proven time and again that he is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Maybe not morally, but statistically. And for those who doubt him, or consider him a cheater, Brady will re-assert his greatness this season as the Patriots will flourish yet again, but this time without starting wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Friday’s preseason game against the Lions, and his 2017 season is confirmed to be over. Edelman is the team’s number one wide receiver, and had 98 receptions last season on 159 targets. New England added Brandin Cooks this offseason, along with Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, so there’s no shortage of talent in New England, who already have a top passing offense in the NFL. Bringing back Gronkowski and other wide receivers will give the Patriots options when throwing this season. Losing Edelman is a big blow, but with Brady, the Patriots can flourish no matter who goes down.
Tom Brady has one undeniable great characteristic: he makes everyone around him much better. Gronkowski is arguably the only natural talent that Tom Brady can work with at this point in time, as he was a second round pick out of college and is a naturally gifted athlete when measuring his size, strength, and speed. Looking through the contributors in the passing attack, there were little expectations for the players who have grown into household names. Edelman was a seventh round pick. Hogan was undrafted (and was actually a lacrosse player in college). Amendola was undrafted. And Malcom Mitchell was a fourth round pick. In the backfield, Dion Lewis was a fifth round pick and James White was a fourth round pick. Of the new additions (Cooks, Burkhead, Gillislee), only Brandin Cooks was drafted before round five. Yet, the Patriots still are at the top of the NFL year after year offensively.
Brady has a great track record of turning low level draft picks into consistent offensive contributors. He even fits that description himself, being a six round pick who gained playing time only due to injury. So now that we’ve settled the situation of who Brady has to work with, we can analyze his greatness. At age 40, Tom has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s rarely dealt with receivers who have been considered some of the best in the league, and he’s rarely had a single featured running back. Brady’s always ran offenses that feature many players. Both big names and unknowns have thrived with Brady, and his production levels have never dipped. And yes, he has five Superbowl rings to prove it.
Who will replace Julian Edelman?
There’s no real answer to this question. No receiver has the same chemistry with Tom Brady. No receiver has the exact same skill set as Edelman. But New England will find players to cover for his absence.
Reports coming out of New England say Chris Hogan won’t be in line to exactly “replace” Edelman, but he’s likely the next man up. Hogan serves as a more effective deep threat than the other Patriots receivers, so it’s unlikely he’ll take Edelman’s slot position, but it’s very likely he’ll be on the field more often. The most likely player to step into Edelman’s role is Danny Amendola. After seasons plagued by injuries, Amendola has settled down in New England and filled a slot role in the offense.
Hogan will likely stay New England’s number one deep threat at wide receiver, and many of his targets come 21+ yards down the field. Don’t be surprised if Hogan and Brady connect on deep balls as well as more passes underneath. Amendola, on the other hand, has never seen more than 90 targets in New England. If healthy, Amendola could see upwards of 100 targets and reach a level he played at with he Rams a few years back. Both will receive more targets in the offense this year, but only Amendola will lineup where Edelman was so effective. But, the truth is, everyone is a beneficiary of the Edelman injury because of how well Brady spreads the ball around.
What’s the Patriots ceiling without Julian Edelman?
I shouldn’t really have to answer this question. As long as Brady is under center, the Patriots are a Superbowl contender. He won last year without Gronk, so there’s no reason he can’t win without Edelman. I’m not trying to downgrade Edelman’s value in New England. He’s a great wideout, and the best one the Patriots have. But if you think his injury will derail the Patriots season, you are underestimating Brady’s ability to win with whoever is out on the field.