The summer is here and football is just around the corner. Training camp will kick off in Foxborough in about a month, so what better time to delve into some predictions for the Patriots upcoming season?
This week we'll focus on the passing game – specifically, Tom Brady's targets. There is some uncertainty at this stage given the unknown nature of Julian Edelman's appeal hearing, which reportedly took place earlier this week. At this point he is slated to sit out the first four games due to his suspension, but that could change depending on the outcome of the appeal.
Assuming Edelman is healthy, he will catch plenty of passes from Brady whether the suspension holds or not. Same can be said of Rob Gronkowski, who led the team 69 catches a year ago while Edelman was on the shelf with a torn ACL.
Those two figure to be the odds on favorites to lead the way again in 2018, but could another candidate emerge? Chris Hogan has the most experience in the system among the wideouts, and James White had a torrid start last year before injuries slowed him in the second half. Fellow backs Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel warrant consideration, as does free agent newcomer Jordan Matthews.
Lots of options but there can be only one pick, and this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Who will lead the Patriots in receptions in 2018?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Gronk remains the single most unstoppable weapon in the NFL and as long as he's healthy that will remain the case in 2018. He simply cannot be covered, and anytime Tom Brady needs a completion he usually looks to his tight end to get the job done.
Julian Edelman's suspension also factors into this line of thinking as Gronk will be the lone known commodity among the receivers during the first month of the season. He'll be fresh to open the season and Brady will lean on him more than normal with Edelman out. That will lead to plenty of opportunities for Gronk to make plays.
Until teams prove they have the ability to control him, Gronk has to be the favorite to lead the team in receptions, as he did a year ago.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
My pick stands whether Edelman wins his appeal or not, but I obviously would feel even stronger if he isn't forced to miss any games due to his suspension.
Edelman looked great during the spring after rehabbing from his torn ACL. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, he is going to be playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder to prove himself once again. We know Brady loves to look for Jules in virtually every spot, so I expect that to be the case again in 2018.
Edelman is a volume pass catcher who generally approaches 100 catches when he's healthy. Even if he's forced to sit out a month, cutting his production by a quarter, I believe 75 catches or so will be enough to lead the way. Few are as motivated as Edelman under normal circumstances, and now he feels like he has more to prove. That's good news for Patriots fans.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.