Julian Edelman has had this game circled on his calendar since June 25. Tom Brady‘s favorite wide receiver will see the field for the first time since the New England Patriots historic comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
An Examination of Julian Edelman’s Return to the Field
The Squirrel, Reinstated
606 days. Julian Edelman will have gone without appearing on a field in a Patriots uniform in a game that mattered for 606 days.
That’s a lot of rust to shake off. Edelman is a competitor, and he has now had much more than a year for his torn ACL to heal. Although it’s unfair to expect vintage Edelman in his first game back, he should return to his rightful place as the top slot threat in no time.
Last week, Phillip Dorsett saw increased separation and a significant reduction in average air yards per target. And, wouldn’t you know it, Dorsett gathered four of his seven targets for 55 yards and a score. His usage was much more similar to week two than week three, and the second-year Patriot saw an uptick in success.
It’s clear that Josh McDaniels is still trying to decide how to fit Dorsett into this offense, and Edelman’s reintroduction to this offense is going to complicate McDaniels’ ability to dial Dorsett in further. Keep in mind that Edelman hasn’t been able to practice with the team since the season started because of his suspension and was out for the entire 2017 campaign that Dorsett played. Dorsett has put down some roots into a Patriots offense without Julian Edelman.
Chris Hogan is a better receiver with Julian Edelman on the field. Very few people will question that statement. Hogan had trouble maintaining any kind of consistency in 2017, and 2018 hasn’t been kind to him. His targets have been dwindling since week two. But that’s not a trend that should continue with Edelman back in the mix. Brady’s offense no longer relies heavily on Hogan to contribute as a premier receiver. Edelman’s presence means less coverage and fewer targets for number 15. Defenses now have to key in on the fresher threats, Edelman and Gordon, providing Hogan with many more opportunities to slip between the defensive backs and get open.
Cordarrelle Patterson led the league in average yards after the catch last week, but only because of a 55-yard blast to the end zone with a key, single juke.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 30, 2018
It was one of three receptions on the day for Patterson and one of only two that went for positive yards. The fleet-footed receiver wasn’t as sure-footed as he needed to be, tumbling over his own feet for a four-yard loss in the first half of the game. So, maybe Patterson isn’t the hero Gillette needs right now, nor is he the hero it deserves. But it was a good shot. With Edelman back in the starting rotation, Patterson is going to find himself back in the special teams/gadget play role that everyone expected him to fill when he was signed.
Brady now has every one of his receiving weapons on the field, pending Rob Gronkowski‘s status regarding his ankle. That’s a dangerous sign for opposing defenses. James White and Sony Michel have proven that they can gash defenses out of the backfield, so loading up on defensive backs to cover everyone will only open up opportunities for the run game. Josh Gordon should be free to do whatever he likes on Thursday night. As he gets more comfortable with the Patriots offensive playbook, look for Gordon to emerge as the best option to stretch up the sideline.
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