When Julian Edelman was lost for the season the first question on my mind was who was going to make the tough catches on third down. Brady had grown to depend on Edelman in the toughest spots. From 2013-2016, Edelman had 135 targets on third down, 40 more than second-place Rob Gronkowski.
If there was a player for defenses to key off of on third down, it was clearly Edelman. But now, without Edelman, the Patriots are spreading the ball around, with Brady becoming reacquainted with the days when his favorite receiver wasn’t Edelman or even Wes Welker, it was the open one.
Now the Patriots have a balanced third-down attack that has seen little regression from where things left off in 2016 with Edelman still tearing up the field.
Here’s how the 2016 season looked for third down targets.