The worst fears are starting to be realized for Patriots fans after seeing Julian Edelman leave the field Friday night against the Lions with a knee injury.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Edelman suffered what is believed to be a torn ACL, according to sources informed of the injury. The receiver will have an MRI on Saturday to confirm the diagnosis.
"We're all hoping for the best," Tom Brady told reporters after the game. "Hopefully whatever test they have to do come back positively. We'll try to do our best to kind of lift his spirits if we can and see what happens."
Edelman limped from the field after suffering the non-contact injury on an 18-yard catch and run. He briefly spent time in the sideline medical tent before being carted to the locker room. The wideout was seen being carted to the team bus with crutches at the end of the Patriots' 30-28 win over the Detroit Lions.
The injury is a tough blow for Brady's favorite target. Edelman was eating up Lions defenders, catching three passes for 53 yards on the opening drive before the injury.
The 32-year-old receiver has been Brady's most reliable target for years. Edelman has earned more than nine targets per game over the last four seasons and has averaged more than 11 yards per catch the past five years. He is coming off a career-high 1,106-yard 2016 season.
Edelman signed a two-year, $11 million contract with $7 million guaranteed before this offseason, per Rapoport.
Edelman's injury is a blow, but the Patriots do boast depth at receiver. The team traded for speedster Brandin Cooks this offseason, while Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell move up the depth chart. Chris Hogan, however, will likely be the player seeing a boost in action following Edelman's injury. Hogan had a monster game Friday and was in line for a big role even when Edelman was healthy. After the injury, we could see Hogan move into the slot more in 2017.
Beyond receivers, the Patriots do a better job than any team deploying multifaceted offenses to cover deficiencies. The tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen could both see a bump in slot snaps. The Pats also have a bevy of backs in Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead who can split out in pass-catching roles.
"We have a good group of skill positions including the tight ends and the backs," Brady said. "Everybody's played different roles at different times throughout the spring and the summer. We're still grinding our way through camp. We had quite a few practices but we're still trying to build week to week. Whoever is in there we have to have confidence in what they're doing. We saw a lot of good things from a lot of really good players tonight.
"Brandin [Cooks] made plays, Hogs [Chris Hogan] made plays, Jules made his players, Danny [Amendola] always makes plays, James [White], Mike [Gillislee] ran the balls great. D.J. [Foster] made some great runs. We had Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] for some looks. Just gotta keep trying to grind and ultimately the goal of training camp is to be ready for opening week. It will be here, right around the corner."
UPDATE: An MRI on Saturday revealed that Edelman indeed suffered an ACL tear in his right knee during Friday's preseason win over the Lions, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Patriots' Super Bowl hero will miss the entire 2017 campaign.