Julian Edelman entered the 2009 Draft as a QB, came out drafted in the 7th round as a wide receiver, and now has punt and kick returner added to his list of potential duties. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien conceded that learning the different nuances of each position will take time and practice, but it's this positional flexibility that will most likely earn Edelman one of the coveted spots on the final 53-man roster.
Coach Belichick has always prized players who can play multiple positions and as Christopher Price noted, Edelman was being evaluated and groomed for his versatility right from his first pre-draft workout with the Patriots. "While his quarterbacking skills wouldn’t necessarily translate to the next level, the thought of using Edelman as a potential offensive chess piece appealed to the New England brass."
"When we worked him out there, we worked him out as a receiver," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "We worked him out as a quarterback. We worked him out as a running back and worked him out as a returner. We looked at all the different skills that we thought we could potentially work him at and that was part of his evaluation, as well as his actual playing at Kent State."
Not surprisingly, Edelman has spent camp time trailing alongside successful jack-of-all-trades Wes Welker and staying close during practice to get his advice and learn by his example. For Edelman's part, his extra work and determination has paid off with noticeable improvement already - more catches and less drops.
During the three training camps I've attended, Edelman has been active and involved with a high number of reps in both WR drills and special teams drills - fielding kicks and punts, and even my inexpert eyes have been able to see him getting better from one day to the next.
It's the idea of using Edelman as "an offensive chess piece" that intrigues me. I'm curious as to how the Patriots intend to use him and especially if they intend to use him beyond receiving and returning.
The national media mentions Edelman with regards to whatever Wildcat options the Patriots' offense might put together and has hinted that's why he was drafted, but he hasn't practiced in that capacity so far - at least not publicly. Personally, I'm still not sold on the Patriots going that route, utilizing Edelman in a pure Wildcat package (with slow, coming-back-from-knee-surgery Tom Brady lined up as a receiver, against guys who would just LOVE to be the next Bernard Pollard hero of the NFL? Come on!)
This morning's 2-minute drill work featured some goal line situations where the offense worked on two of it's plays of choice in short-yardage situations – direct snaps to the running back and a QB sneak. No Wildcat, although with ESPN's Adam Schefter, NFL's Mike Mayock and former Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan present, I'm not surprised.