New England Patriots Julian Edelman returns to practice

New England Patriots No. 3 wide receiver Julian Edelman injured his hand against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 and has not practiced since the entire first-half of that game (caught four passes for 28 yards and a TD). Edelman is practicing today for the first time since playing the Ravens, so this great news for the Patriots heading into a tough matchup against the Seattle Seahawks tough defense that gets even tougher at home.

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Edelman’s health and presumable return will not lead to Wes Welker being benched. That controversy is completely over, because Welker has been arguably the most valuable player on the Pats so far this season. He has added approximately one win to this team per WPA, which is the second-highest of any wideout. He is seventh in EPA, has caught 73.1% of all passes thrown at him, and he averages 9.3 yards per attempt/target.

Here’s a telling statistic: Welker has been targeted on 28.3% of his team’s passes this season. That’s remarkable, especially considering the Pats were using Edelman more than Welk at the beginning of the year. Among all receivers, that 28.3% is good for 12th in the league, which means that Welker is the focal point of this passing offense.

Anyway, Edelman’s should still receive some targets going his way even if Aaron Hernandez plays (he likely will). Herny has a better chance of playing than Edelman this week because Edelman is still wearing a brace, but he should be good to go in Week 7 and has at least a shot of playing against Seattle. But, there’s definitely no rush in bringing him back too soon.

But here’s the thing, the drop-off between Edelman and Welker is immense; so deep that trading or benching Welker is a completely ludicrous solution at this point. First off, why bench a guy who has been one of the best ten receivers in the league so far this year? Why trade him when he’s not even going to net you much in return? Stupid, and I’m sick of the experts treating it like it’s an issue or people speculating about it.

Edelman is a solid possession receiver, but he is nothing more than a safety net, No. 3 option in this offense. He’ll still have a role on the team getting three targets a game or so with those numbers fluctuating based on opponent. Against the Seahawks, I’d rather take my shots deep with Brandon Lloyd instead of throwing the ball to a player who has gone deep on under 10% of his career routes and normally averages under ten yards per catch.

There’s nothing wrong with that in a vacuum, but the Seahawks are at their best in underneath coverage and that’s not the way to beat them in the passing game. They are also excellent in shutting down No. 3 and 4 receivers in their nickel and dime packages, so there should be no rush in bringing back Edelman if he isn’t ready for this game (we’ll know this a lot better after tomorrow’s practice). It would be nice to have him back in Week 6, but it’s better to have him fully healthy later on (Pats face the Jets in Week 7).

Steve Gregory, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Tracy White are three notable players who are still not practicing.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

Topics: Julian Edelman, Michael Hoomanawanui, Steve Gregory, Tracy White, Wes Welker

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