Found December 06, 2012 on Boston Sports Then & Now:
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Julian Edelman – a big part of the Patriots’ offense in recent weeks – has been lost for the year with a broken foot. Patriots WR/PR Julian Edelman hobbled off the field of Sunday’s 23-16 win over the Dolphins for perhaps the final time as a Patriot. Following an offensive play in the 4th quarter of the game, Edelman left with what was described with a foot injury and was listed as questionable to return. After the game, he was seen leaving Sun Life Stadium in a walking boot and carrying crutches. On Tuesday, it was announced that the versatile fourth-year man out of Kent St. had broken his foot in the game and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve. The valuable, Wes Welker-like wide receiver will miss the team’s final four regular season games and all of the postseason as well. In nine games this season, Edelman had caught 21 passes for 235 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He had caught at least one pass in all but one game he played in. In a two-game stretch just before getting hurt for the third time this year, he scored two touchdowns in consecutive games against the Colts and Jets. Edelman missed three games earlier this season with a hand injury after appearing to perhaps be more involved in the offense than Welker, who was dealing with some contract issues over the offseason, early on. He also suffered a concussion on Thanksgiving Night that forced to leave the win against the New York as well. Though he is effective in the offense at times, the Patriots will miss Edelman most in the punt return game. He has returned 17 punts this year for 263 yards and a touchdown. Now, the Pats do have a great option for a punt returner in Welker. Of course, however, it is pretty risky putting one of your top offensive threats back there by himself, subject to being laid out by a speeding gunner before he even gets a chance to move with the ball. But, this is a Bill Belichick team and Welker is the next-best man for the job. There is no question he has the best hands among any of the potential candidates, but his quickness and ability to outmaneuver pursuers and head upfield is also unrivaled. If I had to guess, I would go with Welker being back to receive the first Texans punt on Monday night. If Belichick were to take a different road, likely candidates might include Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Aqib Talib or Shane Vereen. On offense, while the team did re-sign veteran wideout and member of the 2007 team, Donte’ Stallworth, Welker may seem like the most likely to benefit from Edelman’s absence. They are similar players and with a void at Edelman’s position, plays that were designed for him may now be run with the intention of getting Welker the ball. The more significant benefits for Welker, however, could occur off the field. With Edelman’s contract up at the end of the season and his now shaky health becoming a concern, Welker may be able to use this to his advantage to have a better chance of securing the long-term deal that he wants. Don’t be surprised if Edelman is back next year though. Clearly Belichick has a thing for him and all undersized, under-the-radar, versatile players. In his three-plus seasons with the Pats, Edelman has played in all three phases of the game. After being used primarily to return punts in his first three years, he has been regularly worked into the offense this season. And who could forget 2011 when he played defensive back for much of the second half of the season after injuries had decimated the Patriots’ secondary. He made some good hits too. His presence on kick coverage units is also going to be missed and I don’t see Stallworth being a much better third receiving option that Edelman proved to be in the first 12 games of the season. The Patriots host the AFC-leading Houston Texans (11-1) on Monday night.   Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.
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