If they hadn’t done so already, New England Patriots fans might have started booking their February flights to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII on Friday night if not for Julian Edelman’s knee injury. The Patriots’ starters absolutely decimated the Detroit Lions in New England’s third preseason game, leading 24-7 at the half.
Imagine how bad it would have been if Edelman was on the field beyond the first offensive drive?
Wide receiver Chris Hogan resembled Randy Moss (complete with giving up on a deep route in the second quarter) as he caught four passes for 70 yards with two touchdowns. Running back Mike Gillislee’s hamstring looked just fine as he carried the ball eight times for 38 yards with a touchdown and two-point conversion, and quarterback Tom Brady appeared maybe 30 years old, not 40, as he completed 12-of-15 passes for 174 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in less than a half. Brady’s interception came on miscommunication when he chucked the ball deep into double coverage toward Hogan.
But as good as the Patriots’ offense and starting defense, which let up just one touchdown, looked Friday night, that’s not the story of the game.
Edelman clutched his right knee after suffering a non-contact injury on an 18-yard reception. He limped to the sideline, departed for the medical tent and then was carted to the locker room. The Patriots initially called Edelman questionable to return to the game before downgrading him to out early in the third quarter.
The injury, if it’s as severe as it looks, would mean the Patriots, who were projected by some to go undefeated this season, won’t live up to their fullest possible potential in 2017. That’s the pessimistic take.
The optimistic one is if there was a year the Patriots could play without Edelman and still rank among the NFL’s top offenses, it’s this one. The Patriots can run three-receiver sets with Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and either Danny Amendola or Malcolm Mitchell. They can also go to two tight ends with Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen on the field at the same time. They also could rely on their many running backs both through the air and on the ground.
But losing Edelman wouldn’t just be about his production in the field. He’s the heart and soul of the offense, and the team has to be collectively crossing all of their fingers that his injury only looked worse than it really is.
If Edelman truly was lost for the season in a meaningless preseason game, then Hogan, Amendola and Mitchell have to come together to be the next man up. Hogan certainly looked up for the challenge Friday night.
Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images