Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer spoke with coaches and executives around the league to get a sense of what other teams are thinking about the injury to New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman.
If these other football minds are correct, the Patriots won’t miss a beat.
“They’ll find another way to do it,” an AFC defensive coach texted Breer. “So initially, [it’ll hurt them] some, but in the end not much at all.”
“[Danny] Amendola will have to stay healthy and pick up the slack,” another told Breer. “It won’t be easy, but they’ll make it work.”
The Patriots will have to lean on different players to carry the offense, but Tom Brady and company are no strangers to this. The team overcame the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski in 2016 and that was a mid-year injury, giving the team far less time to adjust. The Patriots were prepared for that injury and Martellus Bennett helped pick up the slack, but the team also leaned more on the likes of James White, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and, yes, Edelman to make up for the loss of Gronkowski.
This year, the Patriots will make the same adjustment and White, Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and, yes, Gronkowski will compensate for the loss of Edelman, and they’ll have plenty of time to become comfortable with this arrangement before the back half of the season.
“Health of others is key,” an AFC executive told Breer. “Amendola and [Rob Gronkowski] need to stay healthy, but their offense is diverse enough to pick it up.”
We can point to the relationship between Brady and Edelman as one that’s difficult to replace, and that’s true. But Brady developed his trust in Hogan and Bennett and White over the course of 2016 and he will develop that same trust in Cooks and Rex Burkhead in 2017.
In fact, we can argue that there’s more trust going around in the Patriots offense now than there was in 2016. Just listen to to what Brady said on WEEI Monday morning.
“So much of quarterback-receiver relationship is about trust and I see things a certain way and the receivers need to see it the exact same way in order for me to really anticipate where to go with the ball,” Brady said. “[Edelman] and I just have had that. We’ve worked together since — this is our ninth year on the same team and talking about the same offense. We’re so in sync.
“We have to find a different way to do it. I mean obviously with Danny [Amendola], I’ve had that with Danny. Danny has been such a great player for us. Hogs [Chris Hogan], he’s had a great camp. Brandin Cooks has done a great job. Malcolm [Mitchell], when he has been out there, I have a lot of trust in him. All the backs and tight ends, we’re just going to have to pick up the slack. The production has to come from a different place. I know Jules usually gets a lot of looks. Makes a lot of catches for us. It has to be distributed somewhere else. Injuries are tough. It’s part of the game and we just have to try and overcome it.”
Brady is now in his eighth (!!) year with Rob Gronkowski. He’s in his second with Chris Hogan and their relationship is flourishing, while Malcolm Mitchell offers value, too. Danny Amendola can always be relied upon in the red zone and on third down and in the playoffs. James White and Dion Lewis are entering their third seasons with big roles as receiving backs. There’s a deep relationship with all of these players and Brady, and they’re in a much better position than they were last season.
If Brandin Cooks can step up in his first season the same way that Hogan and Bennett did in 2016, then the Patriots will be fine. And if he lags behind, well, the Patriots will just find another way.