Wednesday 24 January 2018 / 04:42 PM


News about the NFL is scarce these days, with training camps drawing to a close and teams keeping a lid on most of the progress (or lack thereof) heading into week one. Most news of starters and personnel decisions are over, and now we move into the final preparations before the season.

Oh, and the injuries. The defending champs suffered a major blow, the most pristine of camp, with Super Bowl hero Julian Edelman hurting his knee and being diagnosed as missing the full season.

So, with that, the Patriots have their first setback. What does it mean for the rest of the league? Are the Pats now beatable?

Well, that’s a question in multiple parts. The Edelman injury certainly changes the Patriots’ dynamic heading into the season, and isn’t an easy adjustment to make. But, on paper, this isn’t life-threatening.

The Patriots have a plethora of talented receivers up and down the roster to move the needle. They just made a move for Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are as talented as they come. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the Pats feature the best tight end in football in Rob Gronkowski on the flat at each and every play.

The Patriots have the talent, and they have more than enough players that can fit Edelman’s role.

That’s on paper. But beyond that, the Patriots may have some issues.

Number one, Julian was Brady’s most frequent target in late-game situations, particularly in the playoffs, where Brady targeted Edelman 42% of the time in the final four minutes of playoff games in 2015 and 2016 combined.

Not to mention, Edelman is a key figure in the Patriots’ punt game, with his returns yielding big profits in the special teams aspect of the game. They netted big returns in the playoffs, and now they are gone.

Brady’s comfortability aside, the Patriots now head into week one with little margin for error in their rotation. They feature a roster that isn’t reliable in terms of staying healthy, with Gronk in particular facing injuries each and every season. Now, any injury to the offense can be a huge blow, with Brady’s confidence in his rotation down to a couple of players.

The Patriots are used to these situations, but never so early. Belichick and company have seen Rob Gronkowski go down twice in as many seasons for the Pats to close down the stretch and rarely missed a beat, and even added Cooks to the fold as insurance to avoid relying to heavily again.

But losing Edelman is different because of what he means to the offense. Edelman’s skills and trust on third down and in short situations gave Brady comfort, and was one of the few receivers in the league who could work himself open in most situations.

But does it slow New England? Well, history says maybe not. But with a blow like Edelman’s to the offense, the Patriots are in a situation that is slightly new: their replacement for Edelman’s production in Cooks is fresh to the organization, signaling that their might be some growing pains.

And with the Steelers and Raiders beefing up their roster, even the slight misstep from New England could mean a new window toward overthrowing the dynasty.

But it’s way too early to panic. The Patriots have been down this road, and no matter how bad things can look for Brady and Belichick, history says they will find a way to figure it out and somehow get better.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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