Julian Edelman is the New England Patriots’ No. 1 wide receiver. But in terms of playing time Sunday, he was No. 3.
Edelman was on the field for just 37 of the Patriots’ 64 offensive snaps in the team’s season-opening 21-11 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
The 58 percent snap rate was Edelman’s lowest since Week 3 of last season, when he suffered an injury during a win over the New York Jets and did not play after halftime.
Apart from that, the last time Edelman played less than 60 percent of snaps in any game was Week 16 of the 2016 season, when he played 49 percent in a 41-3 rout of the Jets.
In 2019, Edelman played more than 90 percent of snaps in nine games, more than 80 percent in four others and 87.4 percent overall.
Edelman, who still managed to lead all Patriots pass-catchers Sunday with 57 yards on five receptions, was asked about his diminished workload after Thursday’s practice.
“I’m just happy to be out there playing and trying to contribute to my team,” he said in a video conference. “When they ask to use me, I’ll be out there to go. I don’t really think about the percentage of snaps that I take. I just worry about the ones that I do to go out and try and get my assignment and make a play. That’s what I’ll be thinking about.”
The Patriots seem to be taking a cautious approach with their top wideout that began this summer. During training camp, Edelman sat out one practice and was held out of team drills in several others. A knee injury limited Edelman in practice last week, and though he was removed from the injury report last Friday, he was back on it Wednesday after being limited again.
Edelman played in every game for the Patriots last season, but he battled a laundry list of injuries that hampered his production down the stretch and required multiple offseason surgeries. Now 34 and in his 12th pro season, he’s the Patriots’ fourth-oldest player behind backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, special teamer Matthew Slater and kicker Nick Folk.
Losing Edelman for any extended period of time would be potentially disastrous for New England’s offense, which features few proven receiving threats outside of Edelman and running back James White.
Second-year receiver N’Keal Harry had a spotty performance against the Dolphins, catching five passes on six targets but finishing with just 39 receiving yards and losing a fumble at the goal line. He played 80 percent of New England’s offensive snaps (51 of 64).
Veteran newcomer Damiere Byrd led all Patriots wideouts in playing time with 56 snaps (88 percent) but was not targeted by quarterback Cam Newton.
Despite his lower-than-usual snap count, Newton dropped back to pass just three times when Edelman was not on the field.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images