New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Julian Edelman is back in the building. Seen, heard, confirmed. But more importantly, No. 11 will be back on the football field for the New England Patriots.

Edelman will most certainly have a positive impact on the Pats offense when he’s back into the lineup. But it’s fair to wonder how big or small that impact will be. The double-whammy of returning from an ACL injury, and missing four games after testing positive for a banned substance, is a notable setback for any receiver.

Even if Edelman doesn’t have quite the same quickness or explosion that he had in, say, 2016, he should still be able to get open faster than any other Patriots receiver has to this point in the season. Tom Brady is known for getting rid of the ball as quickly as any quarterback. A lot of that is predicated on his trust in Edelman, and his ability to get separation in short order.

“Yeah, I mean when he’s out there, I obviously just – I know his body language, I know his ability to get open, my confidence in him,” Brady said of Edelman. “All those things come up. So, when you get matchups and he’s open, he gets it. He gets open so quick. I think that’s the thing about Julian – his explosiveness in the routes, in and out of breaks. It’s very comforting for a quarterback to see a guy get open really early in a route.”

Patriots receivers have had trouble getting open in general so far in 2018, certainly to get open early. Edelman should alleviate at least some of those issues. And it’ll especially show up on third downs.

“We Ask A Lot Of Him”

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) during the 2017 AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After going just 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) on third down in their first three games, the Patriots offense went 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) in their 38-7 win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Conversions included a quick slant to Josh Gordon, a 13-yard curl at the sticks to Phillip Dorsett, a nine-yard out to Rob Gronkowski, and an in-cut by Gordon that went for 19 yards, including 10 after the catch.

When Edelman is at his best, he can do all of those things himself.

“Julian – we ask a lot of him,” said Brady. “He plays a lot of different spots. I think he’s capable of moving in and out of different locations and it’s kind of specialty-type plays. There’s a lot that he does well, and hopefully it’s a smooth transition. Got to prepare this week – it’s going to be a big week of prep and then we’ll go out there and play Thursday night and see where we’re at.”

The question with Edelman, which won’t be answered until Thursday night at the earliest, is whether he’s the same dependable slot receiver he’s been for Brady on the field. If the return is as seamless as the Patriots hope, he’ll make life easier for the other receivers and open things up more for Brady and Josh McDaniels.

Perhaps most importantly, he’ll be there for Brady on third downs. The offense has had a lot of trouble keeping drives alive. If there’s one problem that Edelman could instantly solve, it’s that one.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.