Edelman will let play do the talking

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
11:30
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Julian Edelman is going to let his play do the talking. For the second time over the last six days, he declined an interview request on Tuesday.

With Danny Amendola missing practice for the second straight day, making him unlikely to play in the Patriots’ preseason game against the Lions on Thursday, Edelman represents an interesting storyline. He projects as the next man up at the team’s all-important slot receiver position.

[+] Enlarge Julian Edelman
AP Photo/Matt SlocumWith Danny Amendola likely out on Thursday, Julian Edelman could move up the depth chart.
It’s a job many thought he was being groomed for in the post-Wes Welker years. As a rookie in 2009, we all remember how he filled in admirably after Welker tore his ACL in the season finale at Houston, totaling a career-high 10 receptions for 103 yards that day.

But it’s been an up-and-down ride for him since then, with a few injuries knocking him off course. He never emerged as a full-time receiver, but certainly has as one of the NFL’s best punt returners.

Then came last offseason, the Patriots investing big in Amendola when they couldn’t close the deal with Welker. And Edelman, exploring the free-agent market after having recovered from a broken foot, visited with the Giants before ultimately accepting a one-year incentive-filled deal to return to the Patriots.

The 27-year-old Edelman wouldn’t be human if that didn’t sting a bit.

So here we are this week, with the hobbled Amendola being held out for reasons that are more precautionary than anything.

Enter Edelman?

In a year in which the Patriots have executed a “re-do” at the position, Edelman (21 catches in 2012) is essentially the only holdover (we’re not counting special teams captain Matthew Slater) and Thursday could represent a nice opportunity for him to recapture some of the receiving magic we saw that day in Houston on Jan. 3, 2010.

To this point, he’s projected to more of a No. 4 or 5 receiving role.

This was reflected in the preseason opener against the Eagles when Edelman didn’t play an offensive snap when quarterback Tom Brady was on the field. Last Friday against the Buccaneers, he was on for four of Brady’s 25 snaps (including penalties).

Those numbers fall short compared to the snaps that Amendola (32) and rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (29), Josh Boyce (15) and Aaron Dobson (10) have played with Brady in two preseason games.

Of course, part of the reason could be that the Patriots know what they have in Edelman and they are breaking in new targets to see how it looks. Another part of it could be that the newcomers have emerged and are primed to slice into the playing time some (including this writer) had previously projected for Edelman.

As for Edelman’s viewpoint, we can only guess right now. He’s decided to let his play do the talking, and we should see plenty of it with the top offense Thursday given Amendola’s likely absence.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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