New England Patriots: Wide receiver Julian Edelman is ‘Incredelman’

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) reacts against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) reacts against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Expectations for a young, undersized Julian Edelman were low, but he’s been able to prosper as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets.

Quick, tough and diligent. Those words accurately describe New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Since these traits adhere well to the winning model of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Edelman has blossomed during his tenure in New England. affirmed on Thursday that the Patriots’ front office gave Edelman a two-year, $11 million extension with a $5 million dollar signing bonus. He can also earn $4 million in incentives.

The Patriots have enjoyed a bargain for the 5-10 wide receiver’s services. According to Michael Ginnitti, a co-founder of Spotrac, the California native has earned $16 million in eight seasons with the Patriots. For those arguing Edelman isn’t an elite receiver, it’s still worthy to remember that in February, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown inked a new deal that will pay him an average of $17 million per year, via Over The Cap.

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Therefore, it was really in the best interest of both parties — the Patriots and Edelman — to renegotiate an extension that awarded him for a productive 2016 campaign. He registered a career-high 1,106 regular-season receiving yards, and no one can forget his impact in the postseason. He tallied 342 yards in three games and, in Super Bowl 51, sprawled out for a mind-boggling catch that was crucial for the Pats’ wild comeback victory.

It wasn’t always this way — a red-hot Edelman at the top of the heap. His diminutive size put him at a severe disadvantage in football until the end of his junior year at Woodside High School. At that time, Edelman’s father, Frank, noted that his son gained between 50-60 pounds and grew around eight inches, via The Boston Globe.

The floodgates opened for a monster senior season in 2004. Edelman totaled over 3,200 yards and 42 touchdowns en route to an undefeated, championship-winning season, the San Francisco Chronicle recounted.

Edelman, thought of as too short, attended the College of San Mateo before transferring to Kent State. He didn’t look the physical part of a football player in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) but was a record-breaking, three-year starter.

“At first, to be honest, I thought he was a kicker,” said Brian Lainhart, Edelman’s teammate at Kent State, on ESPN’s E:60.

Nonetheless, Edelman was very athletic. At his pro day, he clocked a 3.92-second time in the 20-yard shuttle drill to beat the best time at the NFL Combine by about 0.4 seconds. His potential to escape pressure and dart around the field like a slot receiver in space caught the attention of the Patriots’ coaching staff.

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“One thing that was evident from the start was just his ability to get open,” Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea said, per Bleacher Report. “It’s a natural ability he had with very little coaching from Day 1. Of course, over the years, he’s worked at refining those skills. At the source, he’s a guy with a really good ability and blessed with physical traits which allow you to get open.”

Selected by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Edelman originally shined on punt returns. About four years later, established slot man Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos, and the Pats had a void to fill. Edelman rose to the occasion and compiled over 100 receptions and more than 1,000 yards in 2013.

Now, sure hands and a natural connection with his quarterback have solidified Edelman as an essential bit to the Patriots attack. Out of his 159 targets last year, he witnessed zero attempts get intercepted. Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Matthews, only targeted 109 times, was next on that list, according to Fox Sports. Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield stated that out of 30 receivers running at least 200 routes from the slot in 2016, Edelman ranked first in yards-per-route-run at 2.42.

“His whole life was about execution, execution, execution, and the Patriots play execution football,” Frank said, via ESPN. “They don’t have a Dez Bryant on the outside and throw up a 50-50 ball and hope he catches it. Every play has to be carried out the right way, and that’s how Jules always played. And then all of a sudden he ends up with Bill Belichick.”

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The former Golden Flash, who turned 31 years old at the end of May, could have his best football in front of him. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald felt Edelman had a “terrific week” of minicamp practice.

Assuming “Incredelman” doesn’t get injured, Patriots fans can be excited about his contributions to the upcoming season.