Edelman Up To The Challenge
Julian Edelman TD return (USPresswire)
Julian Edelman TD return (USPresswire)
Posted Feb 5, 2012

Kisha Tapangan took a closer look at Julian Edelman's role with the Patriots defense after more Giants players called the New England multipurpose player out in the media.

Is Edelman a real defensive threat?
By Kisha Tapangan

The ability to execute in a variety of positions seems to be the norm for the New England Patriots.

With wide receiver dabbling at defensive back, tight end Aaron Hernandez at running back and even Tom Brady kicking a pretty impressive punt. The Patriots excel at finding different skills within their players and exploiting them against unassuming opponents.

When Wes Welker was injured in 2009, the need for a slot receiver was a top concern and seventh round pick Julian Edelman was more than happy to step up. The Kent State alum excelled at quarterback in college and since then have played offense, special teams and because of a growing list of injuries, defense for the Patriots.

Edelman as a wideout
Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham made quite the statement at media day about Julian Edelman playing defensive back.

"To our advantage, I hope he's out there … It's a different stage,”.Manningham said. “This ain't regular season. That ain't your real position, so we're going to try to expose you. It's all or nothing now. That ain't your position. This is the Super Bowl and we want you to play that position."

Manningham has reason to be confident, until this season, Edelman hasn’t had to play as a defensive back since he was 12 years old in Pop Warner.

But something has to be said for Edelman’s efforts since 16 different players have filled a defensive back position; Edelman was still chosen to play throughout the playoffs. Edelman managed 18 total tackles with 13 of them being solo efforts.

Bill Belichick explained that he had confidence in what Edelman was doing. "Julian will be ready to go on everything as he always is,” Belichick told the media. “Based on game plan, and how it goes, we’ll see how that all turns out, he will be ready for all three phases.”

The Patriots nickel and dime formation that included Edelman proved to be efficient during their first match-up of the season, even if it was a loss for the Patriots.

Against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game, Edelman was responsible for Anquan Boldin and his inexperience as a defensive back were somewhat exposed. For Super Bowl XLVI, receiving corps is even more explosive with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and of course,  Mario Manningham.

With the Giants offense voicing their doubts on Edelman’s efforts, the utility player confidently responded.

“I don’t think I’ve had that many balls caught on me.” Edelman noted to reporters. “Not to say that I’ve been doing such a great job, but the coaches have done a great job of helping me out with the scheme and preparing me each week on what I have to focus on, instead of focusing on the big picture of the defense..”

When asked about his thoughts on Manningham’s choice words, Edelman answers in usual Patriot fashion.

“I am not really worried about what Mario Manningham is saying right now. I am more focused on doing my job, and that is preparing right now,” Edelman said. “We will see if that opportunity comes ahead of us in the game.”

When it comes down to it, Julian Edelman has been effective enough as a defensive back. With the help of other defensive backs such as Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty, Edelman may not have to be anything more than efficient.

Something else to keep in mind is if Edelman’s services will be needed more in offense since the status of Rob Gronkowski’s ankle is still unclear.

Gronk and Edelman
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) celebrate after Gronkowski scored a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of the 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. (Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE) 1/14/2012

Interesting to think that it was simple request from Bill Belichick that changed the dynamic of the all-purpose player,

“Coach (Bill Belichick) told me that I would be in a defensive meeting that day and that’s what we did. You’re not going to say no to an opportunity to help the team win.”

Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots Insider.com. She also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha. She can also be found on twitter @KishaT. Feel free to email her your thoughts here.

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