Julian Edelman represents first domino to help Patriots' offense return to form

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When a reporter asked New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman if he was available to answer a few questions Wednesday, Edelman relayed that he planned on do so Thursday instead. If that’s the way it unfolds, it will mark just the second time since Edelman broke a bone in his left foot Nov. 15 that he’s been in the media spotlight.

It also would reinforce that he’s that much closer to a return to action.

Edelman is expected to play when the Patriots host an AFC divisional-round playoff game on Jan. 16, and while he is unlikely to be on the field for every snap as he normally would, his presence is still the shot in the arm that this offense badly needs.

“He’s been very dependable, a great player for us, hugely critical to our success,” quarterback Tom Brady said Monday on sports radio station WEEI. “Hopefully he’s ready to go. We’ll see in a couple weeks. Obviously, I’m hoping he’s out there.”

Among the areas where Edelman figures to make the biggest difference is on third down, where the Patriots are a combined 5-of-24 in their last two games, both losses.

In plays Edelman was on the field this season, the Patriots had a 50 percent conversion rate on third down; on plays he wasn’t on the field, it dipped to 33 percent.

Edelman’s ability to get open quickly also should help an offensive line that is struggling to find its groove, which in turn will give Brady an added level of comfort. At the time of his injury, Edelman led the Patriots with 61 receptions. In his absence Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin stepped in as the top two receivers.

In addition to Edelman, No. 3 receiver Danny Amendola has been limited at times, unavailable at others, since injuring his left knee Nov. 23. Between Edelman’s anticipated return and Amendola’s potential increased workload in the playoffs, the Patriots’ passing game should get a much-needed boost.

“I’ll be on the same page with those two as soon as they get back,” Brady said on WEEI. “I’ve thrown enough balls to both of those guys that whenever they get back on the field, we’ll have the same chemistry with those two players.

“Now, how our offense does, we have to throw, we have to catch, we have to block, we have to run. … We have to be able to integrate everybody’s skill set at this time of year.”

But the first domino to fall has to be Edelman.

From there, it gives everything else a chance to click into place.