New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is 33 years old and has been battling through a painful chest injury for five games. Through it all, Edelman is on pace for his best statistical season and is far and away the Patriots’ best offensive skill-position player.
Edelman caught eight passes on 11 targets for 78 yards with two touchdowns in the Patriots’ Week 8 win over the Cleveland Browns. He has 53 catches for 574 yards with four touchdowns now on the season. Through some simple multiplication, we can deduce Edelman is on pace for 106 catches for 1,148 yards with eight touchdowns by seasons end. Edelman’s career highs are 105 catches, 1,106 yards and seven touchdowns.
Undersized “slot” receivers are supposed to slow down at this point in their careers. Edelman is still playing his best football. The Patriots are acquiring additional weapons for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as they should. The Patriots’ offense has been criticized through half of a season but it’s a wonder what they would look like without Edelman moving the chains.
The Patriots should absolutely prioritize keeping Edelman healthy at this point too. If that means fewer targets, so be it. Recently acquired receiver Mohamed Sanu and returning rookie N’Keal Harry should help take some of the load off of Edelman.
Sanu was amazed by the chemistry between Brady and Edelman after the Patriots’ Week 8 win. There’s good reason for it. Neither one of Edelman’s touchdown catches came on traditional routes.
Edelman bounced off of Browns linebacker Joe Schobert to find a more shallow pocket in Cleveland’s coverage. Once he caught the ball, all he had to do was run around Schobert for the touchdown.
Edelman’s second touchdown came on a scramble drill. The Browns only rushed three, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon did a good job on a 1-on-1 block with Myles Garrett to give Brady time to throw. There was no room for Edelman to get open on his crossing route, so he circled back and threw his arm in the air once the cornerback started charging Brady. Edelman then had enough room for Brady to deliver a throw, and it went for six points.
Harry soon will join Edelman, Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers in the Patriots’ receiving corps. Combine them with running backs Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and Brandon Bolden and tight end Ben Watson, and the Patriots should have enough weapons at Brady’s disposal.
There is some current cause for concern on the offensive line. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse struggled, allowing two sacks Sunday. Isaiah Wynn is eligible to return off of injured reserve in Week 12, and it will be interesting to see if the Patriots believe he can stay healthy. If they don’t, then they could wind up acquiring help along the offensive line before Tuesday’s trade deadline. The Patriots have already traded for three offensive linemen. Russell Bodine isn’t even on the team anymore, and Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor didn’t start Sunday despite the Patriots being down three starters.
The Patriots clearly can win with Newhouse at left tackle. They’ve emerged victorious in all of his six starts, but they’d certainly prefer to have someone else protecting Brady’s blindside.
Right guard James Ferentz also allowed pressure in Sunday’s win. The Patriots should be getting their regular starter Shaq Mason back in that role soon enough. Neither center Ted Karras nor left guard Joe Thuney allowed any pressure against the Browns. Cannon let up three pressures from right tackle, though he had tough assignments against Garrett and Olivier Vernon.