With Shane Vereen out, Bill Belichick leans on ‘versatility’ of Julian Edelman
|09.09.13 at 2:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With Shane Vereen expected to be out several weeks with a broken left wrist, Zach Sudfeld nursing a sore hamstring, Danny Amendola dealing with a groin injury and Rob Gronkowski still working his way back to full strength, now is a great time for Julian Edelman to rise to the top.
Edelman caught seven passes on nine targets for 79 yards while catching Tom Brady‘s only two touchdowns on the day in the Patriots’ 23-21 win over the Bills.
Bill Belichick was asked during his conference call Monday morning about Edelman’s versatility.
“We’ve seen Julian do a lot of different things for us: he’s returned kicks, he’s covered kicks, he’s played defense, he’s run with the ball, he’s caught the ball,” Belichick said. “He has a lot of different skills and we’ve used him in a lot of different ways with the ball in his hands. He’s an aggressive blocker and also as I said, in the kicking game and on defense. Versatility is definitely one of his strengths. He’s a tough kid, he’s a good competitor, he has good body strength, he’s got some speed and he’s got quickness. He’s got a lot of things going for him.”
“Julian has always been a versatile guy for us,” added offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s been able to play multiple positions. He is a tough player, he is a tough competitor, he can make plays on the perimeter and he can go inside and do some of the things inside that we ask him to do. Yesterday he came up with quite a few big catches for us, and certainly a few big plays for us in the red zone and on third down that were really critical for us. [He] is a guy that works hard, tries to come in and do his best at everything we ask him to do. He is always prepared for the game and tries to make the most of his opportunities, and yesterday I thought he really helped us.”
In just five seasons in the NFL, Edelman Sunday became the NFL’s career leader in punt return average, with 75 returns and a career average of 13.05 yards, including three touchdowns.
“We value it quite a bit,” Belichick said. “I don’t think it’s underrated at all. Another example of Julian ‘ he never returned punts, he came into the NFL, learned how to do it, learned how to be a receiver. [He] played the quarterback position in college at Kent State and all the positions really that he’s played in the NFL ‘ covering kicks, returning kicks, slot receiver, outside receiver, slot defender ‘ he didn’t do any of those things in college. I think that really speaks to his versatility and how much he’s grown as a player and how many things he’s learned how to do that he really didn’t have much experience with in college. I’d say that’s pretty unusual, especially to be as competent in them as he is.”
As for Vereen, Belichick did not specifically address his broken wrist since news of the injury did not break until several hours after the call ended.
Belichick was asked about Vereen’s size (5-feet-10, 205 pounds) and whether there’s any hesitation to use him more than a traditional player in that role, like Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead from what we’ve seen in the past, based on his build.
“I think they’re all kind of in the same ballpark,” Belichick said. “It depends on what you’re doing. Certainly he can play on all three downs; he showed that in college and we saw some of that yesterday. Whether that’s his best role or whether it’s a complementary role, it might change from game to game, it might change during the course of the season, it might change from season to season based on the rest of your roster and what type of plays you’re running offensively. He has good versatility to play really on all four downs. He helped us in the kicking game as well yesterday. I think some of that is game plan, some of it has been obviously his development as a young player and also some of it works around your roster and your match-ups and individual games.”
Here is the rest of Belichick’s conference call from Monday:
“It’s been kind of a short night for us here; quick turnaround trying to get through Buffalo and get on to the Jets. I thought yesterday we did some good things in all three areas. We also didn’t do some good things in those areas. So [there are] things we obviously have to keep improving on. I think that’s a big key for us at this point in the season: just correcting mistakes, getting better, improving on a daily basis, on a weekly basis and getting more consistency. I thought we showed that we could do some things. We just have to do them better ‘ coaching, playing, all the way across the board. It’s on to the Jets and we have to be ready to get a lot done here in a short week. Fortunately, it’s a team that we have decent familiarity with, although there are quite a few new faces down there on the coaching staff as well as with the players that we’ll need to try to get acclimated to as quickly as possible.”
Q: How much of the Jets have you specifically watched at this point?
BB: I’ve seen all their games. I have just a few plays left of the Tampa game, but I’ve seen all of it.
Q: Leading into the season opener, you talked about the great unknown with any opener. As you went back through the game, what was the biggest unknown to you as it unfolded in the game against Buffalo?
BB: There was a little bit of everything: what they did, how we performed, some adjustments we had to make, how things came together in different areas of our team, things that we need more work on, things that looked like the execution level is at a decent level. It’s a little bit of everything across the board.
Q: How much carryover is there defensively going from Buffalo and Mike Pettine to the Jets and Rex Ryan, with Pettine coming over from the Jets?
BB: I think there’s a decent amount of carryover. I think the thing about that defense is that they game plan up a lot. I think we saw some things yesterday from Buffalo that were very probably specific to us, things they hadn’t shown in their preseason, obviously, naturally. I think that some of the things that we saw the Jets do yesterday against Tampa, we won’t see and I think we’ll see some things that Tampa didn’t see. There is certainly some familiarity and some carryover between the two schemes but at the same time, both those schemes are predicated on game planning and matchups and trying to create schemes and matchups that are favorable and that is going to change from week to week, no matter who they play. Obviously with different personnel involved, that’s another factor in it too. There’s still a big degree of unknown there.
Q: In the bigger picture of the week, is the goal for today trying to condense Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday into one day and turning tomorrow into Thursday and picking up a normal week then? What’s the structure of the week in terms of getting back into a normal seven-day schedule?
BB: Something like that. There’s going to have to be some days combined. Today is definitely a finish up the Bills day so that’s part of Monday. We’ll just skip Tuesday since that doesn’t really exist. We’ll definitely get into Wednesday today and start with our scouting report and turn the page and get into the Jets. Tuesday and Wednesday will be some combination of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I guess would be the best way to put it and Sunday is Thursday, something like that; definitely skipping Tuesday.
Q: With such a short turnaround, were you able to do any advance work on the Jets last week or was all the focus on the Bills?
BB: No, we got all the preseason games in and we watched tape on a lot of the teams that we’ll play early in the season. Of course, Tampa we already worked against, but we’ve seen tape of Buffalo and the Jets and some of the other teams that are fairly early on the schedule. As we got to the end of preseason, then our focus that last week, around the Giants week, that really turned to Buffalo. Now we’re back to the Jets, but when you go into your season, you see who the early games are and you do your offseason scouting reports based on what they did the previous year. You’re familiar with all that, you’re familiar with the personnel and then you look at them in preseason, see who some of the new personnel is and try to put that into your preparations. Then if there are any scheme things that show up, which there usually aren’t a whole lot that show up in preseason but sometimes you see something that’s a little different but usually it’s schemes that you’re familiar with, it’s just new personnel. By the time you get into your sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth game of the year, you’ve got enough of the regular season to work with that you’re really ‘ you’re still aware of what they did last year and we do some offseason things there but the preseason isn’t as important because you have all those regular season games to work with.
Q: You re-signed Leon Washington on Saturday. Was that the plan? How did that work out to bring him back and what do you look forward to him bringing to your team this year?
BB: As I said, the best way to answer that question is [that] you saw that there was a lot of roster movement last week. I think that that will probably continue to some degree with our team and I’m sure with many other teams in the league over the first couple weeks of the regular season as things get settled on the practice squad, on just the way your team is made up and so forth. We’ll just have to see how all that goes. In Leon’s case, he certainly is a guy that’s done a lot of things in his career. [He] did them for us in training camp and then the preseason games, returned kicks: played on the special teams, ran the ball, played on third down. He’s got some versatility and gives us depth in those areas that we feel is important. That’s why he’s here.