The last five and a half months have treated Julian Edelman quite well as he basks in the media and endorsement glory that comes along with winning a Super Bowl MVP. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as Adam Schefter reports Edelman will miss at least three weeks of action due to a thumb injury heading into training camp. As the Patriots’ most important offensive player without the last name Brady, it’s not ideal for Edelman to miss any time, even if it is during training camp
But looking at the big picture, Edelman’s absence from the outset is for the best. For the first time in many years, there is no established second option in New England after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement; he and Edelman played some variation of 1A and 1B when they were both healthy. Edelman is now the undisputed first option, but without him in training camp (and Josh Gordon’s situation ongoing), the opportunity is there for one of New England’s unheralded options to step up and make a connection with Tom Brady that carries over to the regular season.
Many talented receivers have come through Foxboro and couldn’t last due to a lack of chemistry with Brady. There were a lot of other factors at play, but perhaps Brady’s biggest flaw as a quarterback is his tendency to over-rely on his familiar guys rather than new faces, and it can get to the point where it’s detrimental to the offense. That won’t happen in training camp without Edelman. He’ll be looking for a new receiver to rely on, and a handful of guys could make the most of this opportunity.
First-round pick N'Keal Harry has the opportunity to do what few other rookie receivers have in New England: earn consistent playing time and the trust of the franchise quarterback. Harry is a big possession receiver who will benefit immensely from the chance to work on his timing with Brady regularly. Philip Dorsett showed up when needed last season and scored two big touchdowns during the postseason, but needs to exhibit consistency to make the impact the coaching staff clearly believes he can deliver. Dontrelle Inman, this year’s veteran reclamation project, will get his chances to prove he’s worth keeping around. Even unknowns like Braxton Berrios and Maurice Harris have a chance. Without Edelman, the opportunities are about equal for everyone in the receiving room right now.
The Patriots need another strong contributor at wideout if they want to make a run at repeating as Super Bowl champs. Someone needs to come out of the preseason as the No. 2 guy in this offense with Gordon in flux. Edelman’s absence may not be ideal, but the potential benefits outweigh the negatives here.