FOXBORO, Mass. — A decade after breaking into the NFL under similarly unlikely circumstances, Julian Edelman is playing the role of mentor to the New England Patriots’ two undrafted rookie receivers.
Thanks to injuries to veterans Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon, both of those young wideouts played significant roles in Thursday night’s 35-14 victory over the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.
Jakobi Meyers was on the field for 57 of the Patriots’ 82 offensive snaps, catching all four of his targets for 54 yards in the win. Gunner Olszewski played 50 snaps, finishing with two catches on three targets for 34 yards, including a 29-yard pickup early in the fourth quarter.
Both players spoke positively about Edelman’s influence after the game.
“(Quarterback Tom Brady) was business as usual,” Olszewski said. “He knows these are the guys he’s got to throw to, and we’ve got Pops in the huddle — Julian — just giving us encouragement. Big brother. So it was all good in the huddle.”
Added Meyers: “He’s the ultimate competitor. The way Julian plays, he’s never calm. He’s always up, he’s always ready. So you’ve got to bring your game up to meet him, and if not, you’re going to get left behind.”
Edelman, who caught nine passes for 113 yards in the game to lead all receivers, believes it’s his duty to help the youngsters along.
“I love those two,” the 33-year-old said. “It’s funny. You play the game for a while, and I remember when I was that guy in the huddle with guys that had been playing a long time. So you try to think back on how you felt, and you try to encourage and help them the best you possibly can to make them go out and play their best. Because the better they play, the better we’re all going to play. And they can play good ball.
“I’m excited for them and the opportunities they got. They did some good stuff, and we’ve got to just continue to keep going.”
Olszewski, who made the Patriots’ 53-man roster as a punt returner and has garnered favorable comparisons to a young Edelman, entered Thursday night with just 14 offensive snaps to his credit. Meyers had played 95 snaps through five weeks, with 48 coming in place of an injured Edelman in Week 3 and 35 coming after Dorsett went down during last Sunday’s win over the Washington Redskins.
Edelman was impressed by the way both stepped up against the Giants.
“Gun Show and Kobs made some really big plays,” Edelman said. “Jakobi on that back-shoulder (throw) in the red area, which was a huge play; Gun Show with that in-cut and a couple unders. It was good to see them come in and be able to allow us to come in and run plays. I’m super proud of them. They’re doing a really good job.”
Meyers and Olszewski also have received guidance from another legendary Patriots slot receiver: Troy Brown, who is serving as the team’s unofficial assistant receivers coach this season.
“We’re up in the virtual room doing walkthroughs every day after practice,” Olszewski said. “We’re the last two out of the building every day. Troy Brown is on us, harping on us about being ready — one play away. And it happened tonight. One play away, and we were in there. And we did our part.
“We’ve got a lot to improve on. We’re going to watch the film and see a lot of stuff that we can improve on, obviously, and do better, but we’re ready to go.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images