Seventh-round draft picks usually do not enter the league with much expectations or fanfare; Julian Edelman certainly did not. The former Kent State quarterback joined the New England Patriots without a clearly defined position, but was able to carve out a role on the 53-man roster. He started as a punt returner, later became a wide receiver, and even later became quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to guy — a role he holds to this day.
“For me, he’s a spectacular player,” Brady said about his 33-year-old teammate on Monday when appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show. When asked about Edelman, the six-time world champion did not shy away from singing his praises. “He’ll be in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and he could be a Pro Football Hall of Fame, too, at some point. What he’s done and what he’s accomplished is nothing short of spectacular. He’s a great teammate.”
“He does all the dirty work. Not just his only spectacular performances — his ability to run routes, catch the ball, run after catch — but blocking, blocking for other guys,” continued Brady. “I think his day-to-day mentality really sets the tone for everybody. We put Julian in a situation to do all the toughest jobs, basically, and that’s what he relishes. And those things can’t go unnoticed, because when he’s not in there, you can see the difference it has on our offense.”
As of late, Edelman’s availability has been big for the Patriots. The offense had to watch Phillip Dorsett II and Josh Gordon go down in consecutive games, after all, which left Edelman and undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as the only wide receiver healthy enough to play. Even though Meyers and Olszewski have considerable potential, Edelman was needed to step up — and he did just that.
On Thursday against the New York Giants, the veteran delivered another solid performance: he caught a season-high nine passes for 113 yards — one week after catching eight balls for 110 yards and a score. Despite having to deal with the effects of a chest injury suffered in Week 3, Edelman continuously answered the call and delivered just his third ever back-to-back 100-yard receiving games when the team needed him the most to do it.
Obviously players like Meyers and Olszewski as well as first-round rookie N’Keal Harry, who remains on injured reserve as of now, need to pay close attention to how the reigning Super Bowl MVP goes about his business. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed this out during a conference call last Friday, when he spoke about the nuances of Edelman’s game that are certainly worth studying from the younger players’ perspective.
“You’ve got to be careful with trying to start at a place that’s almost impossible for them to start at, but you can take little things: his releases, his footwork during the course of routes, the way he tries to make something look different or maybe make two things look the same when he’s trying to play off of one another,” said McDaniels before praising Edelman for his toughness, physicality and ability to protect the football when he is in the air.
His quarterback shared similar thoughts on Monday morning, and summed up the Patriots’ leading pass catcher quite well in the process of doing so: “He does a lot of things that a lot of other players in the NFL can’t do, and he’s just a spectacular player.”