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Edelman out for season

By MARK DANIELS
The Providence Journal

August 26. 2017 8:57PM
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman gets tackled by Detroit Lions strong safety Tavon Wilson during the first quarter of Friday's game at Ford Field. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots won a Super Bowl without one of their best offensive players last season. It looks like they have to try to do the same again this year.

According to the Sports Illustrated's MMQB, Julian Edelman suffered a complete ACL tear in his right knee. The Patriots subsequently confirmed that the wide receiver will miss the entire 2017 season due to the injury.

"We feel badly for Julian and hope that he will have a speedy and complete recovery, but the team will have to move on and we'll have to compete this season without him," coach Bill Belichick said Saturday. "It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. We'll have to figure that out."

The dynamic receiver went down at 13:12 of the first quarter in the Patriots preseason win over Detroit on Friday. Edelman was running with the ball when he planted his right foot and had his leg buckle out underneath him. He was carted off the field afterward. The Patriots immediately feared that Edelman suffered an ACL tear. Similar to Dion Lewis in 2015 and Wes Welker in 2009, Edelman's injury was non-contact.

The team scheduled an MRI on Saturday to get conclusive results, but ultimately their worst fears were confirmed.

The news of Edelman's injury swept across the internet on Saturday as multiple players made comments on social media. Danny Amendola tweeted, with a photo of Edelman, "Any alley, any trench on any field... I fight with my brother Always." On Instagram, Brady posted a photo of him and Edelman hugging, with the captain, "Gladiator."

"Julian is a great competitor. Works hard. Tough. Does all the things that you ask him to do. I feel badly for him, of course," Belichick said.

The Patriots are fortunate to be loaded up on offense. Even without Edelman, the team has Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Dwayne Allen. At running back, they're also deep with Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, James White and Rex Burkhead. Another area of concern, however, is the health of Mitchell, who is currently working through a knee injury.

Edelman's absence could open up a spot for a receiver like Austin Carr or Devin Lucian. The Patriots could also keep a player like running back D.J. Foster or tight end Jacob Hollister. The offense, however, will have to be tweaked a little bit in Edelman's absence.

Edelman's coming off a career year, where he helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl without Pro Bowl tight end Gronkowski. The receiver finished with 98 receptions and a career-high 1,106 receiving yards. Edelman also led all Patriots targets with 58 first downs. One big area where this will hurt the Patriots is on third down.

Last season, Edelman led the NFL in third-down receiving yards (431). He also finished second in the NFL with 28 third-down receptions. James White was second on the Patriots with 18 third-down receptions and 192 yards.

In 2015, when Edelman missed nearly half the season with a broken foot, the Patriots struggled on third down. Amendola led the team with 20 third-down receptions and 214 yards. Gronkowski was second with 16 third-down receptions to go with 176 yards. By comparison, Edelman, in nine games, had 14 third-down catches and 166 yards.

The biggest question for the Patriots right now is who will step up in those crucial moments. Amendola is certainly a possibility. Last season, 14 of his 23 receptions occurred on third down. Another possibility is Cooks. In 2015, with New Orleans, he totaled 22 receptions and 307 receiving yards on third down. Although Hogan has been used more as a deep threat in the Patriots offense, his production could also go up this season.

Edelman's injury also affects the return game. Last season, he was the Patriots most productive punt returner, averaging 9.0 yards per punt. This preseason, Cyrus Jones has been the only member of the Patriots to return a punt in a game. He's averaged 10.1 yards per punt in seven attempts. Another option is Amendola, who averaged 6.7 yards per return a year ago.

"This team has to move forward with the resources that we have and unfortunately we lost one and an important one," Belichick said. "But as a team we still have to move forward and that's what we'll do."


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