Julian Edelman's return from NFI list strengthens a suddenly imposing Patriots receiving corps

Last week, Braxton Berrios sat atop the New England Patriots depth chart at wide receiver.

Julian Edelman will take back his spot at the top of that list after being removed from the non-football injury list and reporting to practice on Monday. He suffered a broken thumb in July while reportedly playing catch.

Add that to the news of Josh Gordon’s reinstatement and the upside of first-round rookie N’Keal Harry in the mix, and life after Rob Gronkowski doesn’t look all too bad for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing game.

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Partriots WRs brimming with upside

Gordon isn’t cleared to play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, but he returned to Patriots practice alongside Edelman on Monday for the first time since being suspended last season for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

If — and of course any “if” is a massive “if” here — Gordon stays out of trouble and on the field, Brady will work with an impressive pair of top targets that includes one of the game’s most explosive receivers alongside the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

Edelman is a known commodity as one of Brady’s favorite targets.

Gordon showed flashes of his former dominant self last season, averaging 18 yards per catch en route to 737 yards and four touchdowns through 12 games before being hit with his suspension.

Reports from Monday’s practice indicate the the 28-year-old is in great shape and could return to form in short order.

New England's receiving corps is marked by equal parts question marks and upside. (Getty)
New England's receiving corps is marked by equal parts question marks and upside. (Getty)

What does rookie Harry bring to New England?

Meanwhile, Harry is a physical 6-2, 228-pound target who doesn’t have explosive speed, but does have a knack for outmuscling and outmaneuvering defenders to catch contested passes.

If he lives up to his first-round pedigree to become a reliable target in traffic, he could round out an imposing wide receiver trio in New England.

Other veterans recovering from injury

Beyond those three, the Patriots have veterans Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith in addition to Berrios, a sixth-round selection in 2018 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

Thomas is coming off an Achilles injury and is unlikely to reach the heights that made him a four-time Pro Bowler with the Denver Broncos.

Meredith, meanwhile, showed promise with 66 catches for 888 yards in his second NFL season in 2016 with the Chicago Bears, but he hasn’t seen regular action since an ACL injury suffered in 2017.

Either could prove to be reliable targets for Brady if they’re able to regain some of the form they showed before suffering significant injuries. Neither would be asked to play featured roles in Josh McDaniel’s offense.

There are a lot of questions around New England’s receiving corps. But the upside is undeniable if the group can overcome injury and off-field concerns.

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