FOXBORO, Mass. — It doesn’t matter whether the New England Patriots made the right decision between wide receivers Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, they have Julian Edelman.
Edelman became the third Patriots player in team history to catch over 100 passes in a season on Sunday in the Patriots’ 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills. He added 1,000 yards on the year for good measure, too. It wasn’t Edelman’s best game this season, but it was the one that put him over those important milestones.
None of those catches or yards came easy for the fifth-year, versatile receiver. Edelman managed to play all 16 games for the first time in his career, and that’s a milestone in itself for an undersized receiver who does most of his work over the middle of the field.
“I don’t think there’s ever any question about Julian’s skills or his toughness or his competitiveness,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “This is the year he’s been able to stay on the field and certainly his production has paralleled his time on the field. He’s done a good job with his opportunities. He always practices hard, plays hard, prepares well. He’s always a tough guy you can count on from that standpoint and this year he’s been healthy.”
Edelman was still dealing with a broken foot during the beginning of training camp, and with so many new, talented receivers in Foxboro this season, he was playing from behind. Edelman didn’t even start the first game of the season, fellow wide receivers Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins got that honor, but it didn’t take long for Belichick to determine that Edelman deserved the majority of the team’s offensive snaps moving forward.
Edelman didn’t get too excited about his season milestones.
“I mean, it’s cool and everything, but you really go out and you play for other things, like playing in the last game of the year and winning that game,” Edelman said. “We put ourselves in an opportunity to go one step closer to that. It is definitely kind of cool, just with the road; it’s been a crazy road. It’s definitely been kind of cool.”
It sure has been a crazy road for Edelman, who played quarterback at Kent State, then played behind Wes Welker for four seasons. Many forget this, but Edelman split his time between wide receiver and cornerback during New England’s 2011 Super Bowl run.
“A lot of things haven’t gone my way in the past, you know playing behind someone that’s doing really well or whether it’s injuries or not executing certain situations,” Edelman said. “But, it was kind of cool to get that today and more importantly it was great to go out there and win in those conditions against a team that has a solid defense and is almost built for those conditions with the way they play offense and the way they run and situationally play on third [down] and in the red area.”
Edelman was asked if he still considers himself a quarterback playing receiver. He said he got past that in his second or third year. On whether he still considers himself a cornerback playing receiver: “The more you can do,” he said laughing.
If there’s one player that encapsulates the Patriots’ whirlwind season, it might be Edelman. Edelman has stayed physically and mentally strong through a crazy year and five-year career. And he’s one of the few players who has stayed healthy for all 16 games.
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