Julian Edelman: Linebacker/return man extraordinaire
|11.22.11 at 1:41 am ET|
FOXBORO — Julian Edelman is part of the small group of players who can identify themselves as quarterbacks-turned receivers. These days, he can consider himself a quarterback-turned linebacker.
The third-year receiver/return man/part-time defender found himself on the defensive side of the ball for the second straight week on Monday, and in addition to defensive back duties saw snaps as a nickel linebacker. While his most memorable play of the game came in the form of a 72-yard punt return in the third quarter, it was equally as impressive to see the former Kent State quarterback draw a holding penalty on Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope and make a tackle on receiver Jeremy Horne on consecutive plays.
Prior to this season, Edelman had never played on the defensive side of the ball before, except for playing a bit of safety in his freshman year at Woodside High School in California.
“It’s all pretty different,” Edelman said following the Patriots’ 34-3 victory over Kansas City. “Coaches are out there helping me out, and guys are out there lining me up. They’ve been helping me out, and that’s how I’ve been getting by.”
Edelman had 37 receptions as a rookie in 2009, but saw his offensive opportunities and production decrease last season, as he had just seven receptions for 86 yards. This season, he’s caught only three balls, so when coaches approached him about helping out on a Patriots’ defense that has been bit by the injury bug, he was ready to take on a new challenge.
“My first reaction was, ‘It’s an opportunity to get on the field. I love it,'” Edelman said, adding, “I just kind of said, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s ride.”
Edelman has been through a lot this year, both from a football standpoint and otherwise. On the field, he’s become a swiss-army knife (his words) a la Troy Brown, playing offense, special teams and defense. Off the field, he’s less than a month removed from being arrested for indecent assault and battery after he allegedly groped a woman at a bar on Halloween.
His meeting with the media following Monday’s game was his first availability since the arrest, and when asked for comment on the incident, could only offer, “I’ve been advised not to talk about it.”
What he could talk about was the versatility he’s been able to bring the Patriots in his third season. The former seventh-round pick had already made the transition from quarterback to special teamer/receiver, but moving to the other side of the ball is a different animal.
“It’s tough, because you’ve got to do stuff going backwards,” Edelman said. “You’ve got to be fluid. Those guys are good, and it’s tough. It’s just a totally different experience.”
Edelman did not have a reception Monday night, but with more than one way of being able to contribute, the Pats were glad to see him prove he can have a big night without factoring into the offensive picture.
“I’m not surprised with him. He’s a great player. He’s athletic,” Andre Carter said of Edelman following the game. “I know in general that he specializes in kickoff returns and punt returns, but we needed his help, and he did his due diligence as far as learning the scheme.”
Just how many meetings went into that due diligence remains to be seen. Edelman wouldn’t say how much extra time he’s had to put into being defensively learned, but whatever he’s doing hasn’t hurt them yet.