Julian Edelman is one of the most prolific pass catchers in the NFL, but he originally entered the league as a quarterback: the New England Patriots took a seventh-round flier on the undersized Kent State passer in the 2009 draft. The team, however, had no intentions of grooming him to become Tom Brady’s backup and moved him to wide receiver and punt returner immediately upon his arrival in Foxborough. Needless to say that the move paid off.
Every now and then, Edelman’s past still catches up to him as the Patriots are not afraid of using him as a trick-play passer on occasion. Of course, it was not always this way. Over his first five seasons with the team, he never attempted a pass. Then came the 2014 divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens and his now-famous touchdown throw to Danny Amendola. Since then, the Patriots went back to that well comparatively often.
Including the double-pass against Baltimore, Edelman has attempted five passes since January 2015:
- 2014 vs. Baltimore Ravens (divisional playoffs): 51 yards to Danny Amendola, touchdown
- 2016 vs. Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl 51): incomplete to Dion Lewis
- 2018 vs. Green Bay Packers: 37 yards to James White
- 2018 vs. Tennessee Titans: 8 yards to Tom Brady
- 2019 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 32 yards to James White
Completing four of five pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown in the NFL as a wide receiver certainly is impressive, as is the general fact that Edelman was used as a passer on five occasions despite the greatest of all time — Tom Brady — also being on the field at the same time. Why is that the case? According to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Edelman has earned his role as a part-time, situational quarterback.
“I think the first thing is trust,” said McDaniels earlier this week. “Whenever you’re going to decide to have someone other than Tom throw the ball, I think that’s where you have to start, and you certainly have to feel comfortable with why you’re doing something. We don’t certainly go into each week with those types of things ready to go. It has to be a certain situation or a certain thing that makes you feel good about trying that. Otherwise, you don’t ever really want to do that.”
Edelman being comfortable in situations like the one that came up last Sunday against the Steelers — he threw a 32-yard pass across the field to running back James White — is just one of the reasons why the Patriots keep giving him opportunities as a passer, according to McDaniels: “Julian’s demonstrated an ability to take care of the football and protect it when we ask him to try those things,” he said.
“That’s just as important as making it go by throwing a good pass and getting a productive play as what happens when the play isn’t necessarily good and you have to trust the person that you handed the ball to or threw it to to make a good decision,” the veteran assistant coach added. “Anytime we do that, no matter who it is, they have to do a good job of taking care of the football, and he’s done a decent job of that.”