A week ago it appeared that New England wide receiver Julian Edelman might have been a man without an identity.
A converted receiver after being drafted in the seventh round out of Kent State as a quarterback in 2009, Edelman was spending his time in training camp working with the running backs and participating in pass-protection drills against the defensive backs.
It was anybody’s guess how the Patriots were planning to use him this season. But suddenly, it all makes sense.
They’re trying to find as many ways as possible to get the ball into the hands of their explosive second-year receiver.
It takes a lot to upstage the many weapons in the Patriots’ offense, but Edelman was by far the most dynamic player on the field Thursday in their preseason opener, a 27-24 over the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Edelman did his best Wes Welker impression while filling in for the injured slot receiver by catching six passes for 90 yards. He also added 40 more on a punt return.
Edelman, who caught 37 passes for 359 yards last year, did most of his damage on short routes, racking up the majority of his yards after the catch.
“That’s what every guy should be when they have the ball in their hands,” Edelman said. “That’s what we get paid to do, right? Make guys miss.”
If Welker, who is recovering from ACL surgery, is slow to get back on the field, the Patriots can now feel comfortable knowing that they have an adequate fill-in in Edelman.
But the understudy isn’t ready to claim he’s in the same league as his mentor, yet.
“It’s unfair to him. He’s the best slot in the game,” Edelman said. “I’ve learned everything [from him].”
In fantasy football, we often think of handcuffs at running back, but if you are going to draft Wes Welker, make room for Edelman on your roster. He'll be solid if Welker suffers another injury.