Several key players around the NFL will not play in Week 1, including New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who will miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL.
Edelman had a team-high 98 catches for a team-high 1,106 yards last season. Only one other Patriot, James White, had at least 60 catches, and only one other Patriot, Martellus Bennett, who is now in Green Bay, had more than 700 receiving yards.
Just how much will Tom Brady and the Patriots miss Edelman?
“They’re going to miss him a ton – and I think it’s one of the most underplayed things,” Patriots analyst Scott Zolak said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Everybody’s talking about, ‘They’re deep, they signed Brandin Cooks in the offseason, they’re just going to kick (Chris) Hogan outside – assume things are all and well.’ But Julian was the guy that made this offense go. So now, you got a quarterback that’s 40 years of age who’s now got to adapt on third down. It’s good Rob Gronkowski is back.”
Gronkowski had 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns in an injury-plagued 2016 season.
“I think he looks really good,” Zolak said. “We haven’t seen a lot of Brandin Cooks. I think they’re keeping everything under wraps. They’re going to release him on Thursday night. But you’ve got to make up for that, and it’s not going to be one guy. It’s got to be a group of guys. This is where Josh McDaniels’ creativity’s got to get out there with diverse sets. But I’m telling you, get ready for it: I don’t know if it’s going to happen Thursday, whether it’s going to happen next week against the Saints or maybe Houston down the road. He’s going to put four backs in a game at one time with Gronkowski. They’re going to go empty, and you’re going to have to find ways to try and cover it.”
Brady, of course, is the master of adjusting – and then dominating. He turned 40 in August but shows no sign of slowing down.
“No, and even physically when you get up next to him in person, he looks like he’s 30,” Zolak said. “I don’t know what he’s having, but I’ll have what he’s having. He’s got no lines on his forehead. I don’t know if it’s this hydration thing, the avocado ice cream, he eats raw meat – it works. Whether you buy into the new lifestyle he’s found, it works for him, and that’s all that matters. In a weird way, having Jimmy Garoppolo and everybody here has sort of, I don’t want to say motivated him, but you (need) to look over your shoulder. You always know in this league they’re going to replace you with somebody. That’s the biggest thing: he’s having fun, he’s the first one in, he’s in at 5:30, 6 o’clock, he beats everybody into the building, and he just sets the example for all the young guys. Here’s a guy that’s going into his 18th season, and we haven’t seen any precipitous drop in play. He still throws four or five interceptions a year, but until that number escalates to the Brett Favre 15 to 20, that’s when they may make that move, (but) I don’t see it happening anytime soon.”
The Patriots play three of their first four games at home this season, including Thursday’s opener against Kansas City. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. ET.