New England Patriots: How 2015 prepared the team to lose Julian Edelman

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Julian Edelman (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Julian Edelman (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The loss of wide receiver Julian Edelman will not detour  the New England Patriots’ road to a Super Bowl repeat.

The New England Patriots entered November of 2015 undefeated, riding a trajectory on course to a second Super Bowl victory in two years until a rapid storm of injuries left the team’s offense handicapped.

Breakout star, running back Dion Lewis, tore his ACL in Week 9 versus the Washington Redskins, followed by a broken foot suffered by starting wide receiver Julian Edelman, the week after. Backup pass catcher Danny Amendola was banged up in Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills and would miss New England’s next game, versus the Denver Broncos. On Sunday Night Football, at Sports Authority Field, tight end Rob Gronkowski was carted off the field following a hit to the knees from Broncos safety, Darian Stewart.

With Lewis, Edelman, and Gronkowski sidelined, the Patriots hit the field for their next contest, versus the Philadelphia Eagles. With a lackluster group of starters, featuring wideouts Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin, and tight end Michael Williams, the defending Super Bowl champs were handed a 28-35 loss, at home, by the 5-7 Eagles.

Following a 10-game winning streak hushed by injuries, the Patriots finished the regular season 12-4. Despite Edelman, Gronkowski, and Amendola all suiting up, New England was beaten by Denver in the AFC Championship, and their hopes of a Super Bowl repeat were banished.

On Friday night, the injury bug returned to feed on the Patriots. Top wide receiver, Julian Edelman, suffered a torn ACL in the team’s Preseason Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions.

Losing Edelman will without a doubt take a toll on New England’s offensive production, although, there’s perhaps no better season for a blow to the Patriots’ receiving corps to occur.

The 2015 Patriots roster lacked quality and healthy depth on offense, and the shortage of reserves played a crucial role in New England’s collapse. In the squad’s ugly Week 13 loss to Philadelphia, New England was left with preseason caliber talent to chug through the highly-competitive latter half of the season.

In 2017, the Patriots offense will remain premium despite the inevitable ailments that will try to derail their Super Bowl return.

New England Patriots
New England Patriots /

New England Patriots

Throughout the early legs of the offseason, New England opted to invest their draft capital in experienced, pro-ready, developed offensive talent, including wide receiver Brandin Cooks, former Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, and running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.

Unlike 2015, when the team’s lone skill position draftee, tight end A.J. Derby, missed his entire rookie season, New England shipped a bundle of their picks to a handful of teams in exchange for new offensive weapons.

Without Edelman, New England’s projected stable of wide receivers includes Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola, in addition to the possibility of more joining the mix. The often discussed narrative of the Patriots’ 2017 offseason was the number of quality weapons that wouldn’t make the roster, now, that surplus of talent will pay its dividends.

In Brandin Cooks, New England has a receiver who’s been targeted over 100 times twice in the past two seasons, well capable of filling Edelman’s role. Behind Cooks, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell return for their second year in Foxborough after combining for 70 grabs, 1,081 yards, and eight touchdowns, in 2016.

In addition to the already mentioned trio of pass catchers, veteran Danny Amendola, and roster hopeful and 2016 Biletnikoff Award finalist, Austin Carr, are two more receivers who could play a part in replacing Edelman.

Elsewhere on offense, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, as well as running backs Rex Burkhead, James White, and Dion Lewis all possess the ability to contribute with the ball in their hands.

While losing Edelman in a virtually meaningless game won’t be easy to overcome, the Patriots are littered with viable options capable of making up for his lost production.

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In 2015, a Super Bowl caliber New England Patriots team was deteriorated by injuries, with no way to overcome them. Now, that team is well-loaded for the treacherous journey ahead.