Do you want to see a New Englander hyperventilate? Hold a gun to their head and make them choose between Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. I promise you the gun wouldn't be the reason for the respiration problems. The thought of having to choose between the two is a nightmare scenario for anyone rooting for the Patriots. Luckily, it's only a hypothetical situation, so I think we'll be able to keep the heartbeats in rhythm, and avoid serious long term damage.
If you had to choose one, Gronk Or Edelman, which one is more important to this Patriots offense? The Pats lost Edelman for 6-8 weeks to a broken foot against the Giants in Week 10. Two weeks later they lost Gronkowski to what seemed to be a season-ending knee injury against the Broncos in Week 12. Edelman has been practicing for the past few weeks and looks ready and eager to play in the post season. Gronk unexpectedly returned in just two weeks for the Texans game in Week 14.
Watching defenses attempt to cover Gronkowski is a thing of beauty, unless you're rooting for the team trying to cover him. Through double, and sometimes triple coverage, Gronkowski continues to use his size and strength to overcome defenders and make plays for the offense. He is a nightmare in the red zone and is all but impossible to remove him as a threat. The argument could be made that Gronkowski is the most important offensive weapon for the Patriots, aside from Tom Brady.
However, if you held a gun to my head and made me choose between the two, I would take Edelman, and here's why: Since Edelman went down in Week 10, this offense has not looked the same, not even with Gronk on the field. The Patriots offense was excelling even with a less than mediocre offensive line, and Julian Edelman was the main reason for that. With an average release time of less than two seconds, the Patriots had negated the problem with the weak offensive line. With his speed and quick cuts, Edelman was able to get open almost instantly and Brady took advantage of it.
With the quick passes from Brady to Edelman, the offense was able to march up and down the field with ease. Now that Edelman has been removed from the equation, the offense has clearly taken a few steps backwards. Brady is getting hit more because he is forced to hold onto the ball longer, and the problem of the offensive line has become a lot more apparent. With #11 out of the lineup, defenses can now put a lot more attention on Gronkowski without having to worry about Edelman.
In no way does this mean I think Edelman is better than Gronk, but with the way the team is structured this year, Edelman is more valuable. If the O-line was stronger, and Brady had time to throw, Gronkowski would be more of a factor. Since Brady is forced to get rid of the ball quickly, the more important weapon to this offense is the guy who can get open quicker. This year, that person is Julian Edelman.
Again, this is a hypothetical situation and no one has to choose between the two, and hopefully they play together until the day they retire. With a first round bye already wrapped up, the Patriots get a little extra rest which will be a huge factor come the divisional round and beyond. As unlucky as this team has been with injuries, a silver lining is that they will still have Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski come playoff time. With the way this defense is playing, and getting all the offensive weapons back, I have a hard time picturing anything but a return to the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots.
By Matt Watts