By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots will hold their first practice of training camp on Thursday, but Julian Edelman will not be participating. The wide receiver is not expected to partake in the training camp fun for the first three weeks, thanks to a recently revealed thumb injury.
That puts an Edelman return sometime in the middle of the preseason. It’s not ideal when a team’s top receiver can’t go at the start of camp, especially when that team is already coping with the loss of another gigantic receiving threat in their offense thanks to Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. But there is a silver lining for the Patriots when it comes to Edelman’s absence.
Everyone else on the wide receiver depth chart will now get extra run with Tom Brady during camp. And this is a group that is going to need some extra run with Tom Brady during training camp. With veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas starting camp on PUP, here’s a quick look at the pass-catchers Brady and New England QBs will be throwing to in camp:
N’Keal Harry (rookie)
Jakobi Meyers (rookie)
Ryan Davis (rookie)
Gunner Olszewski (rookie)
Of that group, only Dorsett has caught a pass in a New England uniform. Inman has 158 receptions over his six-year career, while Harris has 40 catches in his 28 games played over three NFL seasons. Berrios and Patterson don’t have any NFL games under their belts, though Patterson was a member of New England’s practice squad beginning last November.
With Edelman sidelined, everyone else on the depth chart will get to run some additional routes and catch some extra passes this camp, whether those throws are from Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling or rookie Jarrett Stidham. With each additional rep will come a little more familiarity with the New England system, which could pay dividends when the regular season rolls around. The Patriots offense isn’t the easiest to pick up, and earning Brady’s trust is even more difficult. Getting more opportunities on both fronts is one of the silver linings of Edelman’s injury for the rest of the receiving corps. Any extra run that Harry and other rookies can get with No. 12 will be beneficial.
We also saw what Edelman could do when given a little extra time off last year. After receiving four bonus weeks of vacation from the NFL to start last season, Edelman had one of the best years of his career with 74 receptions and six touchdowns in just 12 games. He added another 26 receptions in three playoff games, capping it all off by winning Super Bowl MVP. Maybe a late start isn’t such a bad thing for Edelman.
It’s not ideal that the Patriots’ top receiving threat is starting his age 33 season on the shelf. But if anyone knows this system and what Tom Brady likes, it’s Edelman, so he can afford to miss a few weeks of practice at the beginning of training camp. His absence will lead to more opportunities for other receivers who could use the extra work during the early stages of the season.