Nine Thoughts On How Julian Edelman’s Injury Impacts Patriots Offense

Are the Patriots forced to trade for a receiver now?


Oct 29, 2020

The New England Patriots’ wide receiver corps has gone from really bad to maybe slightly worse this week after injuries to N’Keal Harry (concussion) and Julian Edelman (knee).

Harry is looking unlikely to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. Edelman won’t play Sunday after undergoing a procedure on his knee Thursday.

So, how does this impact the Patriots’ offense moving forward?

1. The Patriots are left with Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski on their current wide receiver depth chart. Isaiah Zuber, Kristian Wilkerson and Mason Kinsey are on the practice squad. Expect Zuber and either Wilkerson or Kinsey to be elevated for Sunday’s game. Because of restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Patriots cannot bring in an outside wide receiver by Week 8. They have who they’ll have.

2. Byrd, Meyers and Olszewski likely will be the Patriots’ starting trio Sunday. Byrd and Olszewski primarily play outside while Meyers has versatility to play outside or in the slot. Byrd and Meyers should be used in two-receiver sets with Meyers bumping inside to make room for Olszewski in three-receiver sets.

3. There is the possibility that the Patriots would trust Zuber or Wilkerson to play over Olszewski. Zuber mostly has been used as a gadget player early in his Patriots career, however, with more carries than catches. Wilkerson has nice size, speed and agility and could fill an X-receiver spot. Kinsey is more of a slot option.

4. Wide receiver was the Patriots’ biggest need prior to next week’s trade deadline even before Edelman and Harry went down with injuries. This only reduces the Patriots’ depth at the position and could open the door for a lower-level move. Would they now pull the trigger on a player like Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Curtis Samuel, John Ross, Keelan Cole or Keke Coutee to fill out the roster? Maybe, if it only costs a low-round pick. They should still be looking to find a true No. 1 if Bill Belichick believes his team can still be competitive this season.

5. It’s worth wondering how much these injuries actually impact the Patriots’ offense. Edelman and Harry had combined for 14 catches on 35 targets for 140 yards in the Patriots’ past four games. That’s 1.8 receptions on 4.4 targets for 17.5 yards per player per game. It would honestly be tough to produce worse results.

6. That being said, on paper, this is the weakest group of skill-position players in the NFL. And this is far worse than any group the Patriots had in 2006, 2013 or 2019. This is rough.

7. Patriots quarterback Cam Newton could start looking toward running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris and tight ends Dalton Keene, Devin Asiasi and Ryan Izzo more in the passing game.

8. It will be difficult to assess Newton’s performance moving forward with this group. A quarterback’s efficiency will drop as he gets surrounded by a weaker and weaker skill group.

9. It’s worth wondering who will lead Patriots pass-catchers in receptions and yards by the end of the season. The top candidates would be Byrd and Meyers. If the Patriots trade for a top-flight wide receiver, then maybe it’s a player who’s not even on the roster yet.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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