There’s no question that Tom Brady is the engine that makes the New England Patriots’ offense go.
Julian Edelman, one of Brady’s go-to guys, is a vital piston to that engine.
In a recent preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the venerable slot receiver suffered a season-ending knee injury while making a cut.
The subsequent reaction on social media from Patriot Nation was one of expected panic when Edelman was carted off the field, and a Saturday MRI confirmed he had torn his ACL.
Yes, the loss of Edelman hurts, but I’ve got a message to Patriots fans that may sound familiar to those who root for the Green Bay Packers.
Let’s flash back to the winter of 2010, when Edelman’s predecessor, Wes Welker, suffered the same injury, in the same type of situation – making a cut on a non-contact play – in a meaningless regular-season finale. A subsequent 33-14 thrashing in the playoffs from the Baltimore Ravens – at which I was in the stands – followed a week later.
In 2015, Edelman suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Patriots’ ninth game of the season. The team went 3-4 the rest of the way, couldn’t secure home-field advantage and the result was an AFC Championship Game loss in Denver.
Unlike both of those occasions, the Patriots will have plenty of options at the wide receiver position. In 2010, legendary wideout Randy Moss was surrounded by guys like Sam Aiken and Chris Baker. The 2015 team had limited viable offensive options not named Rob Gronkowski.
But this group of wideouts is arguably the deepest of the Brady-Belichick era.
Brandin Cooks gives Brady a deep threat he hasn’t had since Moss. Danny Amendola is not an Edelman clone, but is capable of playing in the slot. Chris Hogan has the versatility to play inside and be a deep threat, as was showcased in the AFC Championship win over Pittsburgh in January. Malcom Mitchell appears poised to have a big second year.
Oh, by the way, some guy named Gronkowski is back in the fold. Former Indianapolis Colt Dwayne Allen will hopefully be this year’s Martellus Bennett. Running backs Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee all give Brady reliable options out of the backfield.
Patriots fans also need to remember that the team went 10-0 without Gronkowski last year. If there’s anybody who knows how to adjust, it’s Brady and Belichick.
Edelman’s third-down production will certainly be missed, as his 431 third-down receiving yards in 2016 was tops in the NFL, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
Patriots Nation, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the unveiling of a fifth championship banner in Foxboro on Thursday.
We’re on to Kansas City.