Over the weekend, the Patriots had something happen that all NFL teams dread: a season-ending injury in a meaningless preseason game. Worse, it was to a key player. There is no under-stating the importance of Julian Edelman to this team; he’s often Tom Brady’s main target and can return kicks, although Bill Belichick would rather not have him do the latter.
In the end, though, Patriots fans should not worry. Somehow, Brady and his teammates find a way.
The Patriots’ run during the Belichick and Brady era has not been without setbacks. They have had to weather plenty of injuries to key players, and in some years the team has been ravaged by them. That they have even made it to the AFC championship game in some of the years they have has been remarkable considering their personnel. They have had to have a “next man up” mentality all the time, so this will not be their first rodeo.
And if past is prologue, it will work out okay. Whether that translates into another Super Bowl victory is unknown, but it will take a lot more than Edelman missing the season to seriously derail this team.
The most interesting question is who will be the main person who emerges. Danny Amendola is one who makes sense, and newly acquired Phillip Dorsett was surely not traded for so he could be a wallflower. A better one is Chris Hogan, who had his moments last year, and in some ways just might be now what Edelman was when Wes Welker was in town. No one is as tough as Edelman, but plenty can fill his shoes to at least some degree.
Perhaps this is where it helps that the Pats don’t have a superstar among their wide receivers, and rarely have during Brady’s career. Sure, it means Brady doesn’t have his own Jerry Rice like Joe Montana had, or Marvin Harrison like Peyton Manning had for his early years in Indianapolis, but it also means that there is no player whose loss to injury or something else will decimate them. Edelman might be their top guy, but Rob Gronkowski is arguably more important among the targets Brady can throw to, and the Pats have managed when he has been out of commission as well (though they are certainly much better off with him than without him).
So if you’re a Patriots fan, the injury to Edelman stinks, but it is little reason to think they’re in trouble from the standpoint of Super Bowl contention. They’ve been down this road before, and it will take a lot more than just this to knock them down to being less than a Super Bowl contender.