At one point earlier this season, the New England Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart overflowed with talent: Josh Gordon. Antonio Brown. Demaryius Thomas. Julian Edelman. Phillip Dorsett. They all were under contract with the team in early September, but one after the other were let go again. Thomas was traded to the New York Jets, Brown released after only one game, and Gordon placed on injured reserve and later waived.
Edelman, Dorsett and undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski remained standing through all of this and were later joined by in-season trade acquisition Mohamed Sanu and first-round rookie N’Keal Harry, who was elevated to the 53-man roster after returning from injured reserve. Those six man will be the Patriots’ wide receiver corps moving forward, but the instability of the last few months certainly stands out.
One man, however, is not necessarily surprised by all the personnel turnover at the position: Julian Edelman, who recently visited the RapSheet + Friends podcast hosted by NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport. The reigning Super Bowl MVP, after all, has seen a lot during his 11 seasons since entering the league as a seventh-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2009. And this year’s receiver carousel is nothing shocking for him either.
“It’s the NFL, and a lot of things always happen, there’s always transactions going on,” said Edelman. “I don’t know if it has happened as much as it has this year, but playing in this league a while you’re never really surprised with anything just because there are so many bizarre things that happen — this, that, the other. You just try to keep your focus on what you can control and that’s trying to make your game better, and focus on you.”
“And, obviously, helping teammates and guys that are there and guys that are playing — being someone they can talk to, but trying to lead by example through practice, preparation and ultimately how you go out and try to play. That’s where I try to keep my focus on,” he continued. Edelman has a special role in this process considering that he is the elder statesman in the wide receiver room, and brings considerable experience to the table.
The burden of helping the other players at the position — be they named Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas, or Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry — also falls on the coaching staff, though, and Edelman made sure to point this out as well during his talk with Rapoport. The 33-year-old said that the coaches’ presence has helped the group during what he described as a crazy year and rotation at the wide receiver position.
“They do a good job of helping, and we all just try to chip away and try to keep whoever is in caught up,” said Edelman. “And that’s everyone, not the new guys but everyone. We’re such a game-plan team. Every week we install and everyone has to learn it together and you go out and practice hard, and I think you get so caught up in that you almost forget about those outside things that are happening.”