New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is the wide receiver with the most experience catching passes from Tom Brady on the Patriots roster, and he had himself a fantastic outing against the Buffalo Bills. Edelman, who was ruthlessly efficient with his targets in the preseason, caught seven of nine targets from Brady for a grand total of 79 yards, which was good for 11.3 yards per reception. I’ve always loved Edelman’s versatility as a receiver, because he can line up on the inside or outside and can run deep routes or short and intermediate stuff. Edelman isn’t simply a slot receiver; he is a legitimate weapon and somebody who could end up having a big 2013 season if he keeps it up.
Julian Edelman was also responsible for two receiving touchdowns, with his longest reception going for 35 yards. Heck, Edelman even broke an NFL record on Sunday, as he now has enough punt returns to quality for the highest punt return average in NFL history: 13 yards per return. Here’s what Bill Belichick said about the importance of that record, “We value it quite a bit. I don’t think it’s underrated at all. Another example of Julian – he never returned punts, he came into the NFL, learned how to do it, learned how to be a receiver. [He] played the quarterback position in college at Kent State and all the positions really that he’s played in the NFL – covering kicks, returning kicks, slot receiver, outside receiver, slot defender – he didn’t do any of those things in college. I think that really speaks to his versatility and how much he’s grown as a player and how many things he’s learned how to do that he really didn’t have much experience with in college. I’d say that’s pretty unusual, especially to be as competent in them as he is.”
Edelman is a such a versatile player, and that’s part of the reason why so many Patriots fans love him. He will have a huge role early in the season as the young receivers try and gel, and we all saw that Kenbrell Thompkins- and Zach Sudfeld- has quite a bit of gelling to do in this offense.
Belichick also said this about Edelman, “We’ve seen Julian do a lot of different things for us: he’s returned kicks, he’s covered kicks, he’s played defense, he’s run with the ball, he’s caught the ball. He has a lot of different skills and we’ve used him in a lot of different ways with the ball in his hands. He’s an aggressive blocker and also as I said, in the kicking game and on defense. Versatility is definitely one of his strengths. He’s a tough kid, he’s a good competitor, he has good body strength, he’s got some speed and he’s got quickness. He’s got a lot of things going for him.”
The improved speed that Julian Edelman possesses is what makes him a more valuable asset in the Patriots offense than, say, two years ago, and we can only hope that Edelman can stay healthy this season. Health looks like the only big question for Edelman (the same can be said for Danny Amendola), as he seems to have most of everything else locked down as a valuable member of this team.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had this to say about Edelman during today’s conference call, “Julian has always been a versatile guy for us. He’s been able to play multiple positions. He is a tough player, he is a tough competitor, he can make plays on the perimeter and he can go inside and do some of the things inside that we ask him to do. Yesterday he came up with quite a few big catches for us, and certainly a few big plays for us in the red zone and on third down that were really critical for us. [He] is a guy that works hard, tries to come in and do his best at everything we ask him to do. He is always prepared for the game and tries to make the most of his opportunities, and yesterday I thought he really helped us.”
The common thread with these quotes? The key thing about Julian Edelman from the New England Patriots perspective is the versatility that he gives this organization.