Edelman carving out his own place

Edelman carving out his own place
September 13, 2013, 2:30 am
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FOXBORO -- Dangle the drama in front of Julian Edelman all you want. He's not biting.

He earned extra attention after New England's season-opening win in Buffalo. No, not just by virtue of his seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. It took a groin injury to Danny Amendola, one that could sideline the receiver for six weeks, to thrust Edelman under a solo spotlight.

"I wasn't even thinking about that," he said Thursday night. "You just try to think about beating your guy, getting open, and catching the ball."

Modest, considering it's more accurate to say the offense was put upon his shoulders than fell into his lap.

Edelman picked up the mantle with general ease. He was thrown to 18 times in New England's Week 2 win over the Jets, and caught 13 of those passes for 78 yards. The Patriots converted just four of 18 third-down opportunities; three of those were done by Edelman.

True, his first four years in New England have been interrupted by injuries (he hasn't yet notched a 16-game season) and an ever-changing job title (is he a receiver, a punt return specialist, or a defensive back?). But right now, whether second-and-3 or third-and-15, Edelman is Tom Brady's most trusted target.

"I just prepared like I do every week," he insisted gently. "I tried to get open every play and Tom found me a couple times."

He refuses to indulge the understudy-turned-leading man storyline. In years past, his efforts to emerge were cast in direct conflict with Brady's former favorite, Wes Welker. Even now, with Welker playing 2,000 miles away in Denver, Edelman's performances are being measured against his predecessor.

Jets coach Rex Ryan couldn't help the invocation when asked what makes the Patriot such a tough cover.

"I think he's been well-tutored, that's for sure. He's been with Welker," Ryan noted. "He's kind of a Welker-clonish. Not as good as him, but he's pretty darn good."

Edelman can't even get out from under shadows when he's the only one in the room.

Not like he'd ever talk about it. He wouldn't even admit to relishing Thursday night's opportunity to step to the front of the depleted receiving corps. When asked if he rallied the troops after Amendola's injury, Edelman remained demure.

"There was nothing like that. It was more of, we've got to be focused and execute our game plan."

It's hard to condemn his caution. Positioned in the middle of the line, whenever Edelman has flashed to the front, he's been struck back by injury. But this could be his time. With Amendola out and the rookies still struggling, he should see more opportunities to be Brady's go-to guy.

And maybe forge his own identity in New England.