FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman has been at his statistical best when Wes Welker has been on the sideline. Yet, if Edelman can return to the field this weekend against the Jets, the slot receiving tag team could go a long way in the game's outcome.
Edelman has been nursing a foot injury for the last month, but he's been able to at least partially participate in practice during the Patriots' last five sessions, including Friday. He was a game-time decision in the regular-season opener against the Bengals, but after a pregame on-field workout with team trainers, Edelman was ruled out.
Due to his progress over the last week and a half, it's believed Edelman will make his 2010 debut at the New Meadowlands.
"I'm real anxious to get back out there," Edelman said. "I love playing the game, and anytime you don?t get to play with your teammates that you've been training so hard with, working double-days, going through camp with, it's a little disappointing. So I'm champing at that bit."
Edelman played in 12 games during his rookie season, including the playoff defeat to Baltimore, and he caught 43 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. In the three games he played without Welker — that's counting the Houston game, when Welker only played a handful of snaps before suffering a knee injury — Edelman caught 24 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns.
Edelman really made a name for himself in Week 2 of 2009, when he debuted against the Jets and caught eight passes for 98 yards, and he was the only receiver who remained on the same wavelength as Tom Brady. Yet, as impressive as Edelman's performance was, he looked back on that film and kind of shook his head.
"I actually look at it, and you say, 'Wow, you looked really like a rookie last year,'" Edelman said. "There are a lot of mistakes. Of course, there were little things here and there that looked all right, but I had a long way to go. I still do."
Obviously, Edelman's numbers spike in Welker-less games because he gets a greater opportunity to in the offense. But with the Jets' rampant blitzers taking aim at Brady this weekend, it will be infinitely more helpful to have a pair of underneath receivers who can catch passes in the event that Brady needs to quickly unload the ball in the interest of self-preservation.
The Patriots haven?t had a whole lot of opportunities to see what their offense looks like with both Edelman and Welker on the field at the same time, and that still might not be in the cards just yet. But if those two can line up in each slot Sunday, the Patriots will be much better off, and they'll have a greater opportunity to counter New York's blitz schemes.
"When our offense is clicking, we're pretty tough," Edelman said. "We're just out there preparing our best for [the Jets] and doing whatever we can to go against what they're going to put against us."