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Same old Edelman in the opener

08.12.10 at 11:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO – When we last saw Julian Edelman, he was playing the part of Wes Welker in a playoff loss to the Ravens, catching a team-high six passes in the 33-14 defeat.

Cut to eight months (and two days) later, and Edelman once again paced New England with six catches (and 90 yards), this time in the 27-24 preseason opener win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

The same traits that endeared Edelman to fans — and earned the Welker comparisons — last year were on display Thursday night. Tough yards after the catch, finding the first-down chains, making defenders miss, a big special teams play.

It seems not much has changed from Edelman over the last 240-plus days.

A statement that Edelman himself is quick to agree with.

“I mean, I’m more familiar with the offense, but I don’t feel like I’m a different player,” Edelman said Thursday night. “I just worry about doing my job. I still have a long way to go. I still have to keep working hard.”

The second-year wideout made an immediate impact the first time he touched the ball in the opener, returning a Thomas Morstead punt 40 yards to the New England 41-yard line (Morstead would injure his shoulder tackling Edelman on the play).

“The special teams need to execute,” said Edelman, who averaged 10.5 yards per punt return last season. “It was good to see us get off to a good start in special teams.”

Edelman — who caught all six passes thrown his way Thursday — hauled in a pair of Tom Brady passes in a 14-play, 93-yard TD drive in the second quarter. That would be it for Brady for the evening but the indefatigable Edelman kept on going, catching two more passes from Brian Hoyer for 39 yards to help the Patriots find the end zone once again and take a 17-7 lead with 5:08 left in the second quarter. On both catches he was able to make the initial defender miss, which is quickly becoming an Edelman trademark.

“That’s my job, right?” Edelman asked with a laugh. “You catch the ball and you run with it. I was fortunate enough to make the first guy miss and make some extra yards.”

The Welker stuff will probably never end for Edelman. The similarities are too great and Edelman truly arrived at the perfect time, following the Welker injury. Rather than shying away from the shadow of the All-Pro, though, Edelman is quick to shrug off any comparisons and praise Welker for the role in his development.

“It’s unfair to him,” Edelman said of Welker, who has caught at least 110 passes in each of the last three seasons. “He’s the best slot [receiver] in the game. And I’ve learned so much from him — I learned how to be a professional from Wes. I learned how to prepare, how to run routes. It was a blessing to come here and sit behind a guy like that and watch him just practice and run routes. Wes has been a huge part in helping me to develop and still is.”

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