NEPD Staff Writer: Jason Cappell
When Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos in 2013, it signaled the end of an era. And when New England opted to sign Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams as Welker’s heir-apparent, it became readily evident that the Patriots were indeed moving on.
The comparisons between the two were endless. Both receivers attended Texas Tech and both were high volume pass catchers who could also contribute to the return game. The Patriots’ move made perfect sense at the time as Amendola was younger, faster and more athletic than Welker. Many believed Amendola would fit in seamlessly and the offense wouldn’t miss a beat. Some even speculated that Amendola was an upgrade.
But there was one slight problem.
Amendola had been injury prone throughout his whole career and 2013 proved to be no different In the opening game against Buffalo, Amendola injured his groin and went on to miss four games.
Many then believed that the Patriots offense was doomed. After all, Wes Welker had left for Denver, Aaron Hernandez had been arrested on murder charges, and Rob Gronkowski was once again on the shelf, this time with a forearm injury.
The pressure was now squarely on rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce to carry the load. But to everyone’s surprise it was former college quarterback turned receiver Julian Edelman who stepped up. Edelman didn’t possess the speed of Boyce or the perimeter skills of Dobson and Thompkins, but he did have the one thing that mattered… Tom Brady’s trust.
Edelman’s tireless work ethic and toughness was a key to the New England Patriots offense. His in-season development was truly remarkable.
After dealing with injuries for the early part of his career, 2013 proved to be Edelman’s coming out party. Edelman rose to the occasion and took full advantage of the opportunity. In 2013 he transformed from a backup slot receiver with 69 total receptions in four seasons to one of the NFL’s premier receivers. He had a strong campaign, ranking fourth in the league with 105 catches while adding 1,056 yards (21st in the NFL) and six touchdowns. Edelman eclipsed the 100-yard plateau four times last season, and notched 10+ receptions in two games.
Edelman’s athleticism will never be confused with that of Calvin Johnson or Josh Gordon but in 2014 the diminutive slot receiver will continue to be a pass catching thorn in the side of his opponents’ defense.
Edelman does not have the build of a prototypical number one receiver, but neither did Welker. And Welker’s stature didn’t prevent him from being the Patriots all-time leading pass catcher. Most importantly, Edelman became Tom Brady’s most dependable target.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Patriots have two of the brightest minds in football orchestrating the Patriots offense; quarterback Tom Brady and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels.
New England’s offense both systematically and effectively plays to Edelman’s strengths. McDaniels creatively develops ways for the shifty route runner to impact the game with his uncanny ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage.
As the first player in NFL history to record 105 receptions and 35 punt returns in a single season, Edelman has proven that he is valuable all over the football field.
So far in training camp the Patriots pesky slot receiver has one again has again been Tom Brady’s most efficient target. Edelman created havoc against the Washington Redskins secondary in joint team practices and has earned rave reviews so far this year.
The 28 year old was deemed important enough to be among a select few that head coach Bill Belichick held out of last week’s preseason opener at FedEx Field.
The six-year pro may not yet have everyone’s attention, but he has caught the eye of the Patriots’ prized offseason acquisition and one of the league’s best cover corners in Darrelle Revis.
“I call him the Energizer Bunny because he never quits, .You can jam him one play and you try to get the toughness out of him, but he’s very tough. He has great mental toughness, as well. He’s very crafty. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s my teammate, but also he’s a great receiver in this league.””
Julian Edelman may not grab 100 receptions or even reach 1,000 yards in 2014, especially when you consider the impact of the return of Rob Gronkowski and the addition of Brandon LaFell. But it is obvious Edelman’s rapport with Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not like practice reps against “Revis Island” will stunt his development either.
Instead of a flash in the pan, look for even more sizzle from Edelman in 2014.
Tags: Julian Edelman