It’s Monday, and after missing the final two days of last week thanks to some things that came up late last week, we’re back at it. So here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.
Key Season Coming Up For Edelman – The Patriots have a crowded group of receivers heading into 2017 and one name that comes to mind when thinking about a player with a lot at stake this year is Julian Edelman, who will be a free-agent after this season.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been seven years since he came into the league after the Patriots drafted him back in 2009. The former 7th round pick has far exceeded everyone’s expectations and when his time in New England eventually comes to an end, he’ll go down as one of the best stories when you think of his ascension to where he is now.
As a former quarterback out of Kent State, not many people knew what to expect after the Patriots selected him. But after moving to receiver and seeing time in the return game, he showed signs of what he was capable of. He broke his arm during his rookie season and gutted it out down the stretch and stepped up in place of Wes Welker, who suffered a knee injury in the season finale. He first showed a glimpse of his potential after he came up big in that contest when he caught 10 passes for 103 yards. But it was his performance in 2011 that was most impressive after he jumped over onto the other side of the ball and played defensive back during a season where the Patriots’ secondary were decimated by injuries. One of his biggest performances came in a win against the Eagles that season, where he made a touchdown-saving tackle against Vince Young on one drive, and followed it up with a big hit on the quarterback later in the game that saw Young’s target just off the mark.
He was a key to the Patriots getting to the Super Bowl that year, finishing the season with 13 tackles as well as that quarterback hit. He also played both ways in the postseason and played a big part on defense in their AFC Championship win.
After Welker departed via free agency following the 2012 season, it was expected that Danny Amendola would fill Welker’s role after he was signed in March of 2013. However, one thing that was forgotten from that offseason was the fact that the Patriots brought back Edelman on a 1-year deal one month later, and it ended up being Edelman who made the most of his opportunity. He caught 105 passes for 1056 yards and six touchdowns that season, nearly doubling Amendola’s production (54 receptions for 633 yards, 2TDs) while emerging as Tom Brady’s key target. It’s essentially been that way ever since.
Edelman will be a free agent after this season.
It’s crazy to think that he was 23 when he started and Edelman’s now set to turn 31 two weeks from today. It’s also a little concerning, primarily because it’s been such an amazing run and he’s been such a big part of it, that we’re at the point of seeing him move further into his 30s because it’s happened so fast that it seemingly came out of no where.
With the addition of Brandin Cooks this offseason, the signing of Chris Hogan during the last offseason, as well as the emergence of last year’s 4th round pick, Malcolm Mitchell, the Patriots already have a pretty good nucleus of players for the future at the receiver position. That leaves both Edelman and Amendola as the two oldest of that group, which is amazing to think about considering how quickly the time has passed.
The hard part now is the fact that the duo are close friends and both players are closing in on a bad age for receivers, who typically start seeing a decline once they hit their early 30s. Welker was 32 when he moved on from New England and he was essentially done two seasons later. Possession receivers like Edelman and Welker are more susceptible to seeing their careers end quicker than perimeter players because they rely so much on their quickness to beat one-on-one coverage and get open, along with the hits they take inside being slot receivers. It’s well-documented that concussions played a role in the end of Welker’s career and Edelman has certainly taken a beating himself over the years. Unlike Welker, Edelman seems like he’s avoided as many of the bigger hits and how long he lasts will hopefully depend more on his body than his brain.
Edelman and Amendola are good friends.
If he stays healthy and continues his trend of taking team-friendly deals to stay here, Edelman’s future will likely be in his own hands. Amendola might be a little less lucky just due to sheer numbers, especially if another player emerges both at the receiver position and in the return game. However, that’s a big risk for a team who definitely wouldn’t have hoisted two Lombardi trophies without him and it would be tough to imagine Amendola not being with the club this year.
However, the fact we’re even talking about this is a reminder that change does eventually occur, whether we like it or not. For Edelman, the fact he’s once again heading into the final year of his current deal further reinforces that notion because it will require another big year due to the incredible expectations he’s set for himself. He’s done all the right things and we all know how close he and Brady are, so his training regimen seems to follow the things the veteran quarterback has been doing to keep his body in its best condition. But he’s already been hampered by a foot injury after he fractured it two seasons ago, although he managed to get through 2016 seemingly without incident.
Not many guys come through here and make the impact that Edelman has and he’s been an incredible story during his time as a Patriot. Needless to say, we’ll need to try and enjoy these final chapters because unfortunately, like Brady, he’s closer to the end than any of us would like to admit.
No McCourty Brothers Here in New England? – One of the things that came up after Jason McCourty was released by the Titans was whether or not there was the potential for McCourty to end up joining his brother, Devin, here in New England.
As Mike Reiss of ESPN pointed out on Sunday, the former Titan remains a free agent and has yet to make a decision as it pertains to where he’ll be playing this season.
But one of the most interesting things that came out of those initial reports, which we referenced here previously, were comments that came from Devin as the rumors of the two potentially playing together were discussed locally. Devin said that while the possibility would be a fun opportunity, it all comes down to the right situation that would see Jason be a full-time player and not a role-player.
“Like I’ve said before, we’ve loved to play together, but I think first and foremost, he has to do what’s kind of right for his family and where he could actually play and be out there playing,” Devin McCourty told CSNNE last month via the Boston Herald. He’s not at the point in his career where he just wants to sit on the bench. He wants to get a chance to get out there and compete.”
Now, to add some context, that was said prior to Malcolm Butler signing his tender, and also prior to the draft. With Butler remaining on the roster after no trade came to fruition during draft weekend, all indications are now starting to point to the veteran being on the field for the Patriots in 2017. That obviously leaves them with a pretty talented secondary given the addition of newcomer Stephon Gilmore, along with Eric Rowe, who played well down the stretch last season.
As a result, barring injuries, this might not be the opportunity McCourty was hoping for and the timing doesn’t seem to be quite right for the two to finally get to play together. As nice as it would be for their mother to have one stadium to visit this season, it’s looking more and more like they’ll be on separate teams this season.
Garcia brings some attitude to New England’s offensive line.
Garcia Brings an Attitude To New England’s Offensive Line – Another piece that stood out from Sunday was an article from Karen Guregian from the Boston Herald focusing on rookie offensive tackle Antonio Garcia, who seems to have a trait that would certainly be welcomed to a group that played much better in 2016.
Guregian caught up with his former offensive line coach at Troy, Matt Moore, who admitted that one area they had to focus on was the fact sometimes he went a little too hard at practice.
“The only time I’ve had to call Tony out and really have to get on him, is when we’d be practicing, and he would dump our players,” Moore said. “He’d be blocking a guy, and then twist him and throw him to the ground. That’s what you want, but at the same time, you have to take care of each other.”
Moore said that the tenacity Garcia has shown is definitely something that has stood out, and he’s consistently been a player who plays hard on every snap. That will likely be something that should be music to the ears of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who is no stranger to pushing guys and demanding their best. According to Moore, it sounds like he’s going to get just that from Garcia.
“He plays the game with a lot of passion. He’s really physical. He really wants to finish blocks,” Moore said. “Being a small guy growing up, he’s always had that meanness and tenacity. And that’s stayed with him as he’s grown. He always plays hungry. He plays really hard . . . I wish I had to pull all my guys back a little bit.”
It certainly explains why the Patriots moved up 11 spots to get him. It’s things like this that are always fun to hear, and yet another reason to be excited to see what the rookie brings when camp eventually opens.
Handing out Super Bowl rings is something Kraft looks forward to.
Rings Set to Be Handed Out Next Month – According to Mike Reiss, invitations were sent out to the players recently and the team will be handing out the Super Bowl LI rings on June 9th, which should be a lot of fun to watch thanks to the joy of social media.
Two years ago when the players got them, we saw Brady wearing all four rings and it was great to see the players enjoy what was certainly a hard-fought performance in their win over Seattle. Even more impressive was the fact they stayed focused during a challenging stretch leading up to that game, which saw them deal with the DeflateGate accusations following their AFC Championship win over the Colts.
This season essentially saw them come full circle after Brady served his four game suspension, only to come back and go 12-1 in the regular season before running off three more wins, including a historic comeback over the Falcons to win his fifth championship.
The last time they held one of these events, Kraft said that it’s one of his favorite moments.
“I have been blessed to host four Super Bowl ring ceremonies, and just like the rings we present, we have tried to make each ceremony a little bigger and a little better than the one before,” Kraft said in a statement released at the time. “Football is the consummate team sport. These championship rings represent all that the team endured and overcame together. The players on this team will forever be bound by the memories this ring represents.”
“The presentation of the rings is one of my favorite moments. I love watching the expressions on the faces of each of our players and the range of emotions they experience when they see the ring for the first time and the pride they all have when they put it on. Tonight’s celebration is really a culmination of a job well done.”
We’ll see if this year’s ceremony is even “bigger and a little better” as well.
Best Wishes to Kirk Minihane – Last week we took WEEI’s Kirk Minihane to task here for his comments toward Julian Edelman and Tom Brady during a couple of segments where he made some questionable statements about the two players.
However, while Minihane might be known for his shtick as it pertains to his on-air personality, it doesn’t change the fact that off-air he’s still a person like everyone else and obviously deals with the same trials and tribulations that many of us often do.
Unfortunately, last week, he dealt with one of the most difficult after it was announced on air by his co-host, Gerry Callahan, that Minihane’s father recently passed away due to an illness. He missed time at the end of the week and Callahan finally let everyone know why his co-host was absent, which he revealed that Minihane had sadly been quietly dealing with this for a while.
From all of us at PatsFans.com, our thoughts go out to Minihane and his family.
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