The Packers are looking high and low for a productive slot receiver. Randall Cobb has gone downhill ever since Green Bay gave him a four-year $40 million contract after his great 2014 season. It’s doubtful that the Pack will re-hire Cobb in the off-season. Maybe, however, the front office can learn some things by watching the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
I recently posted something about a great Patriots’ receiver who had no business even playing in the NFL (see here). Wes Welker is now retired, but his spirit lives on in his clone: Julian Edelman.
Similar to Welker, Edelman is small: 5’10”. 195 pounds. He also wasn’t invited to the NFL combine. And his Pro Day numbers, other than his agility test times – were substandard. He wasn’t a hot prospect coming out of college (seventh-rounder). He played for Kent State – as a run-option quarterback. Once again, it was only the Patriots who thought he might be NFL material.
Tom Brady quickly gave him the nickname “minitron”, in contrast to “megatron,” the Lions’ gigantic Calvin Johnson. Julian, however, never embraced that moniker.
Edelman has played for New England for nine years, not counting 2017, which was lost to injury. After seldom being a starting receiver in his first four years, he broke out in 2013, with 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. He nearly matched those numbers again in 2014 and 2016.
In 2018, he was again solid, with 74 catches for 850 yards and six touchdowns – fine numbers for a slot receiver. He did this at age 32, the same age as Jordy Nelson when Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst decided he was over the hill.
To appreciate the role of a slot receiver, watch Edelman in the Super Bowl. He and Welker are/were two of the best ever at the position. Look for Brady to go to him often on third down plays. A key reason the Packers have such a poor third-down pickup percentage (36.8% in 2018, ranking 23rd) is that they lack a productive slot man.
Edelman won’t be overlooked by Rams’ coach Sean McVay. As a receiver with Miami of Ohio, McVay faced off against QB Edelman and Kent State in both 2006 and 2007. He well knows Julian can beat you in many ways.
Packers fans might recall that last November Edelman accounted for 136 yards versus Green Bay: 71 via six catches, 28 on two runs, and 37 as a passer.
As a punt returner, Edelman has a sterling NFL career average of 11.2 yards. He’s also plays big in big games: he’s one of only two players with over 100 post-season receptions. Edelman also gets much of his yardage after making the catch – look for that against the Rams.
Some are describing the upcoming game, and head coaches, and quarterbacks, as old school vs. new school. But the creativity that Belichick and his staff bring to the game is anything but old.
Enjoy this contest between two worthy opponents.