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How might Patriots fill void created by Julian Edelman injury?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are certain New England Patriots players who simply can’t be replaced when they are injured, as it takes multiple pieces of the roster puzzle to account for the void.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who underwent surgery on his left foot Monday and is expected to miss significant time, falls into that category.

Entering Sunday, he was the team’s leading receiver and had played a receiver-high 87.8 percent of the snaps, a reflection of how he was part of all packages -- one-receiver, two-receiver, three-receiver and four-receiver.

On got-to-have-it plays, such as third downs, it was often Edelman who quarterback Tom Brady looked to first (or tight end Rob Gronkowski).

So where do the Patriots go from here?

Brady’s comments on sports radio WEEI on Monday morning provide a roadmap for his mindset.

Keshawn Martin is obviously still a good player for us,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on the Dennis and Callahan Show with Kirk Minihane. “He’s hopefully coming back here soon [from a hamstring injury]. I have a lot of confidence in Brandon LaFell. Danny [Amendola's] role is different than what Julian’s was for us. I think they are a little different type of players.

“Certainly, Julian has been incredible for us. Incredible. And Danny has had a great year this year and really continued from what he finished last season. It’s kind of like when you lose a great player like Dion Lewis, there are different ways you are going to have to produce. We’ll need to find different ways to produce with the guys that are on the field.

“It’s just unfortunate to lose such a critical player. But you just have to figure out different ways to get it done. Every team deals with injuries.”

That Brady mentioned Martin first wasn’t a coincidence, because the 5-foot-11, 194-pound fourth-year pro was coming on strong before injuring his hamstring on Oct. 18. Martin, who was acquired in a trade from the Texans on Sept. 17, hasn’t played in the past four games and has six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown in three games with the club.

In the Oct. 18 game against the Colts, Martin played in the majority of two-receiver packages alongside Edelman as they were the primary combination -- 51 snaps for Edelman, 50 for Martin, followed by 36 for Amendola.

That could be a preview of what is to come on a more regular basis, although it’s also important to note that the Patriots alter their approach weekly and that can lead to a fluctuation in playing time for those who don’t fall into the category of someone like Edelman or Gronkowski.

So the most likely answer is that the combination of Martin and Amendola (more of a pure slot option compared to Edelman) will likely have to team up to fill the void alongside No. 1 outside target LaFell, with Aaron Dobson an insurance option in the No. 4 spot.

Brady acknowledged that he was tired after Sunday’s game and he was down after learning of Edelman’s injury.

“I was certainly bummed to hear about Julian because of how great of a player he is. It’s just terrible for him,” he said on WEEI.

“There’s nothing that is really seamless when you lose a great player; when someone has been the leading receiver on your team for multiple years, and you lose them, it’s not like you say, ‘OK, let’s put someone else in there.’ He’s too good of a player for that. So you just have to find your way to make some adjustments.”