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Bill Belichick hints at full-time work for Julian Edelman on defense

11.30.11 at 9:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Julian Edelman has made quite the impression on many in the Patriots organization with his newfound career on defense.

Included in that group is head coach Bill Belichick.

Edelman has earned the trust of the coaching staff so much that he’s earned a spot on nickel and dime packages in the Patriots secondary.

He made an impressive open-field tackle on Vince Young in the third quarter, keeping the Eagles quarterback out of the end zone. He nearly sacked Young before delivering a well-executed – and legal – hit to his mid-section.

Belichick has seen enough in three games of Edelman on defense that he didn’t scoff at the following question: Is there a chance that when you switch a player like that, is there a chance that his aptitude for the new position suggests that his potential is greater at his new position than returning to his old position? In other words, could Edelman wind up on defense for good?

“It’€™s possible. It’€™s possible, yeah. Not to dig too deep, but that’€™s kind of where it was with Steve Neal,” Belichick said of the former college wrestler, turning defensive lineman turned offensive lineman. “We started with Steve Neal and we put him on defense ‘€“ that was a brilliant coaching move. We had him there in training camp for a couple of weeks and he kind of got worse instead of better. Finally, when we moved him to offense, he was so far behind from never playing football, from now shifting over to offense in the middle of training camp that it was again, impossible and he was put in a really tough position there. I think we saw enough that when we resigned him at the end of the ‘€™01 season and brought him back, we felt like he would be able to develop more on the offensive side of the ball than on the defensive side of the ball. Sometimes it could work out that way.”

Does he see that with Edelman?

“I don’€™t know,” Belichick said. “That’€™s a good question. I’€™d say that’€™s a good question. He’€™s certainly been competitive, I’€™ll say that. He’€™s been competitive. I think the question with young players always is, when does it start to level out? Any player, at any position. And once it starts to level out, you have to say to yourself, ‘€˜Okay, is that good enough? Is that leveled out or that small incline, is that good enough?’€™ If it is, then great, you can leave him there. If it isn’€™t, then ‘€˜Okay, are we going to come up short there?’€™ As long as the curve is climbing, where is it going to stop? Well, I don’€™t know. Is it going to stop here? How far up is it going to get? As long as it’€™s moving in that direction..; think you kind of have to [have] enough time, enough experience, enough reps to where you can try to make a decision as to whether you think that it’€™s leveled or it’€™s going to continue to improve. I think we’€™re too early in the running to know that so we keep going until we can figure it out.”

Let’s not forget that Edelman is no stranger to tackling, as he has done plenty of it in the open field while on special teams.

“Well it’€™s really the same thing,” Belichick said. “Tackling in the open field, using your leverage, knowing where your help is, whether it’€™s a defensive player inside of you or the sideline outside or wherever it happens to be. You’€™re in some of those same relationships in the kicking game, no question. I don’€™t want to say tackling is tackling, but tackling is tackling. It’€™s leveraging the runner, knowing what you’€™re taking away, knowing where you’€™re light but counting on your help from that position, whether it be a player or the sideline. Fundamentally, keeping your head up, wrapping up, doing all the fundamental things you do on contacting to get a guy on the ground. There’€™s definitely carryover.”

Belichick was reminded again on Wednesday that he might be watching a repeat of the Troy Brown experiment in 2006, when the receiver helped out in nickel situations and defended the slot receiver.

“There’€™s obviously similarity between two guys that played in the slot and moved to the other side of the ball,” Belichick said. “We’€™ve been working with Julian for, I don’€™t know, it’€™s been several weeks, post-practice, one-on-ones, mixing him in on some scout team work, mixing him in on some defensive work, some things on post-practice, had a few snaps in games, has had a lot more snaps in individual practice and also in our team practice sessions.”

But Belichick reminded everyone that the main reason Edelman is playing defensive back is because the secondary has been depleted by injuries and releases.

“Obviously, we don’€™t have a lot of numbers there and he’€™s done a great job of trying to step in and learn what we’€™re doing and try to do it to a competitive level and he’€™s definitely done that,” Belichick said. “He’€™s a smart guy and he does have a little bit of an instinctiveness and also a set of skills that are conducive to both spots ‘€“ what you want physically from your slot receiver is pretty similar to what you want physically from your slot corner or vice versa. I think the fact that he’€™s played in there gives him some understanding of what that position is from the other side of the ball, which helps him play on the defensive side, as it did with Troy.

“Troy had obviously a great understanding of the slot position offensively and why the slot receiver would cut down a split, why he would widen it out, why it would stem a certain way because that’€™s what he did. He was able to flip that over, which isn’€™t the easiest thing in the world to do; it’€™s easy to sit here and talk about it, but it’€™s sometimes hard to go from thinking about techniques on one side of the ball and now you’€™re on the other side of the ball and now you’€™re thinking about them all in reverse as a defensive player. Julian has had a good presence for that and I think has adapted to it pretty well.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, nfl
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