Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman hasn’t had much success from an offensive standpoint so far this season, so instead he’s moved on to becoming exactly what Bill Belichick looks for in a player.
Versatile. Â With a capital “V”.
Julian Edelman has carved out a new niche for himself so far this season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
The third year receiver has just 3 catches for 27 yards through 10 games, but has become one of their most productive punt return players in franchise history, and is also making plays on the defensive side of the ball. As a result, he’s suddenly an even more valuable part of what feels like a more depleted roster by the week, giving them depth at multiple positions.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise when you think about it. Â After all, they drafted him out of Kent State in the seventh round, with Edelman having been a three year starter at quarterback while in college. Â However, Belichick instead tried to take the same speed that had allowed Edelman to gain 1,370 yards rushing during his senior year, and transitioned him to the wide receiver position after he joined the Patriots.
His speed and quickness had some comparing him to Wes Welker, which left him with high expectations that haven’t quite worked out the way some would have liked. Â Now instead he’s carved out a new niche for himself, and has been working on the defensive side of the football. Â It’s fairly similar to what we saw years ago with Troy Brown, who like Edelman, came in on third down and gave them additional depth in the secondary.
Last week we saw Edelman come in late in the game during their win over New York, and this week he was even in on the team’s first defensive series. Â Clearly Bill Belichick has been happy with what he’s seen, with the head coach saying he continues to improve each week.
â€œHeâ€™s learning how to play defense,” said Belichick. Â ”Heâ€™s got a long way to go. But heâ€™s working hard, heâ€™s getting reps, heâ€™s getting better at it.”
Another area that we’ve seen Edelman improve on has been in the return game. Â Edelman’s been returning punts all season, and finally broke a 72-yard return for a touchdown during New England’s 34-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. Â Belichick said they’ve been getting “close” for a while now, and he wasn’t completely surprised when Edelman blew through them and took off for the endzone.
“Weâ€™ve been talking about the return game for quite a while. We feel like weâ€™ve been close to breaking off a big play, one block away, or one better hold, or just one thing, and we got it today.
“Our punt return team has been doing a good job. Theyâ€™ve been working hard, weâ€™ve been close, and it was satisfying for them and all of us really for that to happen because I do feel like weâ€™ve been getting close on the kickoff returns. Â We didnâ€™t have much to show for it tonight, but I do think thatâ€™s getting better. Hopefully weâ€™re close to breaking a big one there too.”
Belichick pointed out that Edelman has been working hard in recent weeks trying to get better in that part of his game. It’s an area he says that has been a play or two from breaking one open, and after essentially putting Monday night’s game that much farther out of reach from the Chiefs, he thinks it won’t be long before fans begin to potentially see more plays just like it.
“Those guys work hard and Julianâ€™s worked hard trying to make it happen,” said Belichick. Â ”Sometimes you get frustrated because youâ€™re just a step away, or you get a bad kick when you get good blocking, or you get a good kick and miss a block or whatever it is. But today it game together, he broke a couple tackles, and we kind of had them sealed off there.
“So it was a big play in the game and I think it really, I donâ€™t want to say it put it out of reach, but it certainly put a big gap in the game.”