Julian Edelman got this season’s injuries behind him during the summer.
The fifth-year wide receiver is set to play his first full 16-game season this year. And it comes after injuries set him back during training camp.
“He wasn’t able to do much [in the offseason] and he hasn’t done anything in camp, other than work individually with the trainers and stuff,” Bill Belichick said on Aug. 1. “He watches and goes to meetings, but he can’t participate in anything. I certainly don’t think it puts him ahead. He has some ground to make up. We’ll see how it goes.”
Edelman more than made up that ground. He leads the team with 96 receptions for 991 yards. He’s coming off another solid game, picking up 77 yards on seven receptions against the Ravens.
Edelman missed OTAs and minicamp after suffering a setback to the broken foot that kept him out of the playoffs last year. He missed time earlier last season with a broken hand, too. Edelman’s breakout probably could have come last season. He and Wes Welker were being rotated into the offense before the broken hand set him back.
By the time training camp rolled around, he had become the forgotten man. He was thought to be on the Patriots’ roster bubble after the team signed Danny Amendola, drafted two wide receivers and signed Kenbrell Thompkins and T.J. Moe as undrafted free agents. Turns out it’s a good thing Belichick let Edelman make it through roster cuts.
Edelman has toughed out this season, though given how many times he’s been hit, he’s certainly suffered some nicks and bruises. He was limited in practice earlier in the year with a thigh injury.
“I think the big thing with Julian was just his ability to stay on the field and this year he’s been out there on a consistent basis,” Belichick said. “That not only has obviously helped his production but it’s led to more consistency with his timing and execution because you’re able to build on it week after week or day after day for that matter instead of kind of the way some of his career has been where it goes along and it’s good and then he misses some time and then there’s natural kind of backslide and rebuilding to where it was. A lot of times you’re just kind of playing catchup there whereas this year I think he’s really been able to continue to build on all those practices and games and it’s gotten ahead and gone to much higher ground. Fundamentally, I think he’s still the same player. But the consistency and the ability to build on where he’s been has really been impressive this year. Obviously he’s had an outstanding year.”
Edelman seems to have built on his chemistry with Tom Brady, too, though he deflects any questions about that camaraderie to his signal caller. Brady seems to like teasing his receiver, too. He called him a “spaz” earlier in the season, criticizing his passing skills — Edelman was a college quarterback — and now he has begun referring to his favorite target as “Minitron”, a nickname Edelman would rather ignore. The two have adjacent lockers and are frequently spotted chatting at Gillette Stadium.
Belichick is a lot more positive about Edelman than he was back in August when he was still recovering from injuries. Given Edelman’s obvious toughness out on the field, there haven’t been many negative comments about the receiver all season.
“Obviously, he’s had a tremendous year for us,” Belichick said. “I don’t really think we’ve seen a whole lot from Julian that we haven’t seen before. There are a lot of things to like about Julian: his toughness, his speed, his quickness, his ability to run with the ball after he catches it and break tackles and be elusive and have good run skills in the secondary. He’s a tough kid who can come in and block. He’s smart, he’s got versatility.”
Edelman’s healthy season is coming at the perfect time. He signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason. He’s due for a much longer, bigger deal after this season.
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