Can Julian Edelman Carries The New England Patriots’ Receiving Core?
On Thursday night against the New York Jets, Julian Edelman was the only consistent receiver for quarterback Tom Brady. This past offseason, the New England Patriots lost receivers Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch, along with tight end Aaron Hernandez. All they did to replace them was sign often injured Danny Amendola, undrafted rookie free agents Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld, and drafted Aaron Dobson in the second round. Those four have combined for 19 catches and one TD in the first two games of the season. Amendola missed the game on Thursday because, well, he is Amendola and misses a lot of games. Sudfeld has yet to register a reception at tight end and so far, the position that was the biggest strength for the Patriots for the last three years has become their weakest. The Patriots’ tight ends have combined for one catch and five yards, with Rob Gronkowski still unable to play.
The only person that saved Tom Brady from crying on the field Thursday night was Julian Edelman. It wasn’t so much the numbers he put up, and if you glance at the box score you may have confused his line with a running backs statistics. Edelman had 13 catches for 78 yards, an average of 6.0 yards per reception. He also had 104 yards on punt returns, which made him the best player on the field Thursday. Brady gave every receiver on his team a chance to step up and earn a spot in his progression. He targeted Dobson and Thompkins a combined 17 times, and it resulted in five catches for the rookie duo. Edelman was targeted 18 times and in the second half became the first read, second read and third read for Brady on most plays.
In the very difficult Patriots’ offense, where every route is an option route based on what the defense does, chemistry is more important than talent. Ask Chad Ochocinco, if you can’t get on the same page with Brady, you will end up at the end of the bench and eventually inactive. The only player Brady trusts on his offense is Edelman, and until Gronkowski comes back, expect Edelman to continue to be targeted on most pass plays.