Earlier today, reports broke about Julian Edelman being expected to miss the next three(ish) weeks because of a thumb injury that was described as a ‘mild trauma.’ Given that Edelman is the most experienced and proven wide receiver in a New England Patriots offense that already lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement earlier this offseason, this news is obviously not what anybody was hoping for three days before the start of training camp.
That being said, the injury could ultimately turn into a net positive for the reigning world champions and their rebuilt receiver group. There are two reasons why this might be the case when all is said and done and the 33-year-old back on the field in mid-August:
1.) Edelman will not have to go through the wear-and-tear of early training camp.
2.) Other wide receivers on the roster will get more action with Edelman out.
Last year, Edelman was present for training camp coming off a season lost to a torn ACL but ultimately had to leave the team for the first four games of the regular season due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy against performance enhancing drugs. The circumstances are of course different this time around, but there is one similarity: his body will not have to go through live contact for a considerable period of time.
While there was a short acclimation period once Edelman returned to the team in week five of last season, he quickly was up to speed again and looked fresh throughout the entire season all the way to winning the MVP trophy during the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl 53. Could his four-week absence have helped him accomplish all that? It certainly did not seem to hurt him, all while the risk of suffering an in-game or in-practice injury was gone for a month.
While Edelman’s thumb injury will somewhat limit his ability to keep working out during this year’s absence, his body as a whole will not have to go through the stress multiple training camp practice sessions put on it. Given his comparatively old age, this can be classified as a blessing in disguise — something that can also be said about how his injury might impact the development of the new-look pass catching corps as a whole.
With the Patriots’ number one wide receiver out, the rest of the position group will have to step up. This could be especially beneficial for the team’s rookies and offseason acquisitions trying to build their chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady. The one that stands out among that group is first-round draft selection N’Keal Harry, who is expected to play a notable role in New England’s passing game in his rookie season.
Edelman not being present as the go-to wide receiver for Brady might put Harry into the spotlight even more, and give him additional chances to work alongside the quarterback and within one of the toughest offensive systems in the entire league. The same can also be said for the other players at the position, particularly those who already showed initial promise during the team’s three mandatory minicamp sessions.
Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers all had their moments in minicamp and with Edelman out will get more reps to show that their spring performances were no fluke. The other receivers on the roster — fighting for spots on a depth chart with currently only two locks (Edelman and Harry) — also have an opportunity at their hands to improve their standing with Brady and by extension on the team.
Of course, it needs to be said that injuries are per se always negative and that this one is no exception, be it for Edelman himself or for Brady and the passing offense’s early rhythm. It would always be best to have all hands on deck during this important time when it comes to team building. Putting all things into account, however, if there is one player on New England’s roster who can afford to miss time, Edelman might just be it.