FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The weekly game plans for the New England Patriots often seem to begin around Julian Edelman’s versatility. That factor will hurt the team more than anything during his season-long recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Slow, coverage-deficient linebackers? Use Edelman to wear out the middle of the field, as he did twice last season against the Steelers. Cornerbacks who prefer to play off the line of scrimmage? Send Edelman to the perimeter and burn them laterally, as he would’ve done in two weeks against the Chiefs in the season opener.

Edelman has been a true No. 1 receiver since 2013, and his value has been both in his versatility and an admirable degree of toughness, putting himself in harm’s way to get timely yards. He beats double teams and withstands linebackers and safeties who bear down on his head and knees like heat-seeking missiles.

He has sought a twisted sense of joy by laughing in their faces after each dose of football brutality.

Edelman won’t be replaced by one single player, but the Patriots can maximize the strengths of Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola to move on without him. They’ll probably even make it look easy, though Edelman is usually the one who makes things easier on his teammates because of his penchant for taking advantage of various matchups.

The greatest unknown will be the clutch factor. Edelman has three of the most important catches in the Super Bowl the past decade: the winning TD and a head-rattling third-down conversion against the Seahawks, plus that video-game-glitch grab against the Falcons. In the past four postseasons, Edelman’s 80 receptions are twice as many as all but Seattle’s Doug Baldwin.

Edelman was also dynamite down the stretch last season. He had 78 catches for 1,090 yards and three touchdowns in the final 11 games, including the playoffs. He easily led the Patriots in third-down catches (28) and led the NFL in third-down yards (431) in the regular season, and added six third-down grabs for 140 yards in the playoffs.

Of course, Amendola and James White can be third-down magnets, and Gronkowski, Hogan, Cooks and Rex Burkhead are also proven commodities.

But again, it’s about matchups. The Patriots were a headache to defend when Edelman and Gronkowski worked the middle together because it stressed the linebackers and safeties, as the shifty receiver showed in Friday’s preseason game against the Lions with his final 18-yard catch and run. Edelman could also be an extension of the running game, which was on display in consecutive quick-pass gains of 11 and 23 yards. Expect Cooks to now get those responsibilities.

Hogan has been dynamite all summer and is at his best with vertical routes and deeper crossing patterns, but he has some of Edelman’s tools as well. The route on his 7-yard touchdown against the Lions was Edelman-type, when he motioned inside before the snap to help Brady identify the Lions’ zone assignment. Dion Lewis ran out of the backfield to the right flat, which drew perimeter coverage, and Hogan sat in linebacker Jarrad Davis’ zone for an easy score in a clear matchup advantage.

Hogan drew safety Darius Slay on his 25-yard quick crossing pattern from the right, which was another route often seen from Edelman when there is an obvious upper hand in quickness. In practice, Cooks has run plenty of lateral routes that were designed to get the ball into his hands quickly to allow him to turn upfield and show off his speed. With Cooks and Hogan running over-under combos, Gronkowski up the seam and a running back squirting into the flat, the Patriots will torture slower linebackers.

Amendola will be thrust into as pronounced a role as his knee can handle, and he showed he still has the requisite athleticism with his 31-yard gain up the right seam against the Lions. The catch was great, but his burst was more promising than anything.

The genius of the Patriots offense is their dedication to feasting on opponents’ mistakes and weaknesses. Without Edelman, they’ll still be able to dictate matchups. It’ll just take a bit more creativity from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, because Edelman could wreck just about any defensive scheme.