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Why Julian Edelman is Patriots’ new ‘Slash’

11.27.11 at 10:20 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Back in the day, the day when Kordell Stewart was revolutionizing offenses by occasionally splitting out wide as a receiver or getting under center as a quarterback or taking a direct snap in a modified offense, the Steelers and their following came up with a nickname for him: Slash. He made a name for himself in the late 1990s and it carried on through the new millennium, when he took over as Pittsburgh’s full-time quarterback.

The Patriots beat Stewart and the Steelers in the AFC championship game in January 2002, the game that vaulted the Patriots into Super Bowl XXXVI and destiny against the Rams.

Now, fast forward to Sunday, and it’s clear that Julian Edelman is becoming the most versatile player on the Patriots.

He is no longer just a trivial mention at the end of the game on defense like he was against the Jets on Nov. 13. Instead, Edelman is playing more and more in big situations and making big plays, like an open-field tackle on Vince Young at the New England 2 early in the third quarter. It led to a key goal-line stand that protected the Patriots’ 31-13 lead and kept the Eagles from gaining any momentum.

What Stewart did for the Steelers, Edelman is doing for the Patriots now, playing a multitude of roles and playing them well.

“I like to call him Slash because he’s a versatile player,” said Patriots safety James Ihedigbo, who is playing more and more with Edelman in the secondary. “He can do so much. Having him there and his ability as a receiver to know routes and, as well to cover, is great. I’m glad to have him.”

But Patriots fans are already drawing another comparison: Troy Brown — the man who played both sides of the ball toward the end of his career.

The man who has leaned on Edelman the most of late is coach Bill Belichick. With Ihedigbo fighting through shoulder stingers — receiving another on Sunday — and Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty missing another game, Belichick has asked Edelman to put in extra time during the week so that he can help the team more on Sundays.

“Julian’s worked hard on that,” Belichick said of Edelman’s work in practice. “He’s had to keep up with what’s going on on offense and also the kicking game. But he’s worked hard, spent a lot of extra time with [defensive backs coach] Josh Boyer and kind of splitting time between meetings, between offense and defense, and of course he does all the special teams stuff, too.

“He’s worked hard and he’s really been a huge help for us. We’ve been in a couple of tight spots here and we were in it again today, and we went strolling back outside at the end of the game. He’s worked hard, and he’s really helped us.”

Edelman was very low-key afterward, playing down any praise as the Patriots’ do-it-all player in all three units.

“To be honest, I do not mind whether it is offense or defense,” he said. “I just like being in on plays and doing what needs to be done to help us win.”

He nearly recorded his first career sack in the third quarter when he drilled Young as the Eagles quarterback let the ball go for an incompletion. How hard was the hit? It left Young on the ground for several seconds before the Philly quarterback got his bearings back and got back on his feet.

“It was funny because with all the rules floating around, in regards to hitting quarterbacks, I wanted to hit him but do it right,” Edelman said. “I just didn’t want to get any kind of penalty and hit him in the right zone.”

That zone was in the ribs just below the shoulders, leaving a mark on Young’s body and a message that he’s more than just a speedy wide receiver/kick returner killing time on defense.

Read More: Julian Edelman, Kordell Stewart, New England Patriots, nfl
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