FOXBORO -- Julian Edelman was the Patriots offensive MVP for the first nine games.
With every other target either in the shop, in the county jail, or too new to be relied upon, Edelman spent the first seven games of the season being the Patriots’ most reliable (only reliable?) aerial weapon.
Targeted 68 times in the first seven games, Edelman responded with 46 catches and 455 very hard-earned yards.
Over the past two games, with Danny Amendola returning to the lineup and Rob Gronkowski getting up to speed, Edelman’s offensive opportunities shrunk.
He was targeted six times in total over the past two games and had just three catches. With Shane Vereen coming back, another player Josh McDaniels can deploy could mean even fewer chances for Edelman to get the ball in his hands.
Few Patriots have worked harder than Edelman over the past few years to make themselves more vital to the team. His performance in training camp in 2012 blew away that of Wes Welker and a lot of that was thanks to Edelman’s offseason work in California with Tom Brady that Welker -- who had been franchised -- did not take part in.
But a broken wrist in Week 3 against Baltimore waylaid Edelman’s 2012 season. When Welker decided to test free agency, the Patriots moved quickly to sign Amendola as Welker’s replacement. Edelman, a free agent as well, could barely raise a sniff on the market and ultimately signed back with the Patriots for just $715,000.
Edelman is incredibly close-to-the-vest with his feelings and rarely moves past clichés when talking to the media. If he took any of the personnel decisions as a slight, he’s refusing to show it.
Even now as the carrot of opportunity that was being dangled is in the midst of being pulled away, Edelman tried to seem sanguine.
“Around here there’s a thing called mental toughness up on the wall and doing what’s best for the team is not necessarily what’s best for you,” he explained. “When the coaches call your number, that’s when you gotta be prepared. There’s a few times where I was called and I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t make a play when I had to so I gotta work on those plays. You never know when your opportunity’s gonna come. It could be a lot one week, it could be less the next week. It’s all about just being prepared for that opportunity when it comes.”
Already, Edelman has career highs in targets, catches and receiving yards. His previous highs -- 54, 37, 359 -- were set in his rookie season. The chances have been a long time coming.
“There’s been some opportunity,” Edelman agreed. “You look back on it and there’s been some good and there’s been some bad. There’s a lot of things I wish I would have done better but the team’s 7-2 and we went into the bye week with a good victory.”
If good health favors the Patriots over the final seven games of the regular season, the opportunities for Edelman to make contributions in the regular offense will keep dwindling.
“Nobody knows better than I do that this is a week-to-week league,” Edelman pointed out. “Especially this week, we’re playing a very tough opponent and that’s where my focus is.”