Over the course of his 11-year career in the NFL, Julian Edelman has a combined 717 regular season and playoff receptions by his name. The vast majority of those catches — 690, to be exact — came off the right hand of Tom Brady, who led the New England Patriots’ offense for the past two decades but decided to take his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason. Edelman therefore finds himself in an unfamiliar situation.
While he did find success alongside the likes of Brian Hoyer, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett as well, not having Brady around as one of the few constants throughout his time in New England forces the veteran to adapt heading into Year 12.
“You have to move on, and you understand that this is a business,” said the veteran pass catcher during a virtual media conference call on Monday. “You wish him well, and that’s when you instantly start thinking about what you have to do to prepare yourself to go out and contribute and help the team for the upcoming year. Obviously we played a lot of ball together, I love him to death, but the train keeps moving — as it will when I’m not playing here someday. It just always keeps going.”
For Edelman, this process means that he will now have to build a chemistry with a new starting quarterback for the first time in his career. Who that QB1 will be remains to be seen, as the Patriots will have an open competition between offseason acquisitions Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer as well as Brady’s 2019 backup, Jarrett Stidham.
Edelman, however, has been working out with all three of them over the course of the offseason in order to get onto the same page as the passers.
“Any time you’re spending time with the guys that deliver the football, especially on your own and away from the facility, you get to know each other on a whole other level — not just as a football player but as a person, a family man,” said the 34-year-old. “When you learn those things, those are what our relationships and trusts are built from.
“All the quarterbacks, Jarrett, Hoy and Cam, they’ve all been very excited to go out and just ‘Hey let’s throw!’ It’s been great, and you definitely need that time with not having an offseason and getting to see each other on the field. It was great to go out there and get some reps and develop some timing. We definitely need a lot more, but we’re in the same boat as everyone else,” added the elder statesman of the Patriots’ wide receiver group.
Despite the uncertain situation at the most important position on the field, Edelman is again projected to serve as New England’s number one pass catcher heading into 2020. Coming off a season in which he caught a team-high 103 passes for 1,147 yards and six touchdowns, he will again be an integral part of the offensive attack just as he was when Brady was still leading the offense from under center and he was his go-to receiving option.
As Edelman pointed out, however, finding the same level of chemistry with the Patriots’ new quarterbacks will not be easy simply because of the timing involved.
“That takes time, and that takes reps, and that takes experience,” said Edelman about building trust with the three quarterbacks competing for Brady’s old job. “Right now we’re really focused on getting in condition, brushing up our minds on the material that our coaches are giving us, and learning each other — not just quarterbacks, but learning our teammates.
“It’s been a funky year with organized team activities where we’ve been virtual the whole time. It’s been great to just go out here, and exciting to meet your teammates in person — socially distanced of course. Those are the kind of things that you’ve been looking forward to and are excited for,” he added. “All the on-the-field stuff comes through reps, that comes through time, that comes through meetings and just sitting and being around each other. That’s how you develop those types of things and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”