By: Steve Balestrieri
Early in the 2012 season, it seemed the Patriots were giving an extended audition to Julian Edelman as the eventual replacement for Wes Welker in the New England offense.
It seems like the stars are aligned again for Edelman to assume a big role in the Patriots passing game. With a lot of turnover in the receiving corps, Edelman is now the player who has the most receptions from Tom Brady in 2012 who will be on hand for the 2013 Patriots Training Camp.
Julian Edelman has a great opportunity to carve out a big role in the Patriots offense. (FILE:USPresswire)
2012 Derailed by Injury-During a stand-out training camp in 2012, Edelman was given a prominent role in the early going before suffering an injury against the Ravens. It was another setback in his development where it seemed he was poised to become a big part of the offense. He returned to play well again before a second injury forced him to IR after only playing in nine games.
Edelman had 21 receptions in 2012, good for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. He rushed 4 times for 45 yards and returned 17 punts for 263 yards and a touchdown. His value has been primarily on special teams as the primary punt returner and as a core ST coverage player on kickoffs.
But with Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez gone, Rob Gronkowski on the shelf initially coming off of multiple surgeries to his forearm and back, along with a slew of new receivers on the roster, Edelman is in a prime position to carve out a big role.
The Patriots decision to retain Edelman and offer him a new contract is in retrospect a smart decision. Edelman knows the offense and has the trust of Brady in knowing where to be. With the addition of Danny Amendola the pressure is off of Edelman in taking over the Welker role.
This season is a “Show-Me”- The key now as always with Edelman is health, which is why the Patriots guaranteed none of his money this season. Instead, they have tied it all into incentives. For him to cash in and carve out a role in the revamped passing game is for him to be on the field on Day 1 and stay there.
As we mentioned he has the trust of Brady and has shown to possess great quickness, decent hands and elusiveness, especially on punt returns that the team sorely needs. If he can translate that consistently in the passing game, then he and the offense will go on and continue to gel.
But the 2013 off-season hasn’t started well; he re-injured his foot and missed all of the spring workouts while in a walking boot. An inauspicious start, but if he’s healthy and ready to go once the heavy lifting starts on July 26 and stays that way, no one will remember his spring.
Edelman, if he’s on top of his game, will also take some pressure off of rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. He’d allow the team to slide Amendola out wide in 3 WR packages and give Brady more options.
The ball is in Edelman’s court and now it’s up to him, the situation can’t be better for him to carve out a huge role in the Patriots offense. But to do so, he has to be on the field.