Julian Edelman enters Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Nissan Stadium ranked second on the New England Patriots in receptions.
Edelman is slotted there, behind only running back James White, despite missing all of 2017 due to a torn ACL, and despite missing the first four weeks of 2018 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
It’s been much of what it was since the 32-year-old made his return on Oct. 4 against the Indianapolis Colts.
And that hasn’t been lost on the quarterback throwing him the football heading into a meeting with the Tennessee Titans.
“Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely,” Tom Brady told reporters during his press conference Friday afternoon. “I mean, Julian’s been such a great player for our team. I think his mental and physical toughness are just unmatched in a lot of ways. I have so much confidence in him.”
That confidence has given way to Edelman drawing 44 targets from Brady over New England’s last five games. Just White, with 51, has drawn more in New England’s passing game over that span.
BRADY-TO-EDELMAN PASSING LOG
- Week 5 vs. Indianapolis: 7-of-9 for 57 yards
- Week 6 vs. Kansas City: 4-of-7 for 54 yards, touchdown
- Week 7 vs. Chicago: 5-of-8 for 36 yards, touchdown
- Week 8 vs. Buffalo: 9-of-10 for 104 yards
- Week 9 vs. Green Bay: 6-of-10 for 71 yards
The byproduct has been 31 completions for 311 yards, 17 first downs and a pair of touchdowns.
That puts Edelman on pace to finish his abbreviated 2018 having accounted for 74 completions, 746 yards, 40 first touchdowns and a handful of touchdowns by way of his teammate of nine seasons.
“He really does all the dirty work for us,” said Brady. “He’s so scrappy, goes in there and blocks hard, catches balls over the middle. We put him in a lot of different positions, and he always seems to come through for us. So, battling what he’s really had to battle and come back from is impressive in itself.”
More than 600 days had passed since Edelman last appeared in game where the final score mattered. More than 400 days had passed since his preseason jump and non-contact fall at Ford Field.
More than 30 days would be tacked on.
But Edelman has now been in for more than half of New England’s offensive snaps this season in just over half of the 7-2 sample size.
“He’s extremely tough, he’s been very durable playing-wise, outside of his ACL and a couple other little things,” Brady said. “But he’s been out there a lot for us, and again, we have a lot of confidence in him as a player.”
Edelman has handled five rushes for 48 yards and returned five punts for 23 yards, as well. And last Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, he picked up another 37 yards with his arm on a screening double-pass to White in the fourth quarter of a tie game against the Green Bay Packers.
No discernible changes in usage there.
“There’s a lot of guys that go through those injuries and don’t come back the same,” added Brady, whose 2008 season ended after 11 pass attempts. “And Julian, to me, looks the same as he’s always looked.”