How the Patriots might adjust without injured WR Julian Edelman

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the New England Patriots suspecting that wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL, which would end his season, the obvious follow-up is where the team goes from here.

The bottom line: While not downplaying how valuable Edelman is to the offense, the Patriots still have a plethora of weapons to help them in their efforts to fill the void.

It will have to be similar to how the Patriots have adjusted without tight end Rob Gronkowski in recent years, because there isn't a one-for-one replacement for Edelman and the rapport he's built with quarterback Tom Brady over the past eight years.

"We've played together for a long time, and I think there's great chemistry in what we're doing," Brady said. "He's just an incredible player and teammate."

Edelman was essentially the team's No. 1 receiver and Brady's go-to guy in got-to-have-it situations. His absence bumps Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks up to the top two spots on the depth chart, with veteran Danny Amendola a capable and clutch No. 3 option. Second-year player Malcolm Mitchell is No. 4, but he's been slowed by knee trouble. His availability at this time remains an unknown.

The Patriots carefully manage Amendola’s playing time to limit his injury risk (he played 23.8 percent of the offensive snaps in 2016), but as Super Bowl LI showed, he is the closest to Edelman among receivers in terms of earning Brady's trust in clutch situations.

That's still a capable top of the receiver depth chart, and it doesn't even account for second-year receiver Devin Lucien and undrafted free agent Austin Carr, who could add depth (likely on the practice squad).

Yet as is annually the case with this offense, the Patriots also have potent weapons at other positions, such as running back, where the pass-catching skills of James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and possibly D.J. Foster could be part of filling the void. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Patriots use more two-running-back sets this season.

And at tight end, Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen form a solid 1-2 punch.

"You never want to see a guy go down, especially a player like Julian, how hard he works," Gronkowski said after Friday's game. "You just hope for the best for him."

Last year Edelman took great pride in making it through the season healthy for every game. That was a goal of his after a broken bone in his foot knocked him out of the second half of the 2015 regular season.

So this is a tough blow for him and the Patriots. Everyone knows how valuable Edelman has been. At the same time, the offense has a history of overcoming such losses.

Just as they won a Super Bowl without Gronkowski down the stretch last season, the Patriots are capable of making a similar run this year without Edelman.