By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Julian Edelman knows as well as anyone on the Patriots how much work it takes to become a consistent weapon for Tom Brady and the offense. There’s no reason to be concerned about the connection between Brady and Edelman, or even Chris Hogan, entering the 2018 season.
But what about the young guys? The newer faces? The contributions of some of the less seasoned Patriots could make a huge difference for an offense that’s low on reliable depth, particularly at wide receiver.
That’s especially true for the first four weeks of the season, during which Edelman will be unable to communicate with the Patriots at all during his four-game suspension. Until then, Edelman will have to worry about keeping himself as sharp as possible. But he’s also the veteran of the Patriots’ wide receiver corps, and expects to be a go-to guy for those who still need more time to gel with No. 12.
“Obviously I won’t be here for the first four,” Edelman told reporters on Wednesday. “Anything I can do to help the guys that are going to step in, and be able to let them know what they need to know and little things. Especially guys that are not as experienced or anything.
“I’ve been in the system a little while. So if a guy is having difficulty with a read or an option or this or that, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.”
Edelman cited “looks” and “verbiage” as details of the Patriots offense that could take a lifetime to master for many players. Some Patriots receivers look further along than others. Phillip Dorsett appears to be gaining more trust with Brady, and has a significant lead over the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, and Eric Decker in that department.
And Chris Hogan has a huge lead over Dorsett. Now in his third year in New England with a possible contract extension coming down the road, Hogan has also learned rather quickly how much effort goes into forging a strong connection with Brady and becoming the kind of dependable target that he’s become. It’s as much of an off-field effort as it is during games and practice.
“In the meeting room … watching film, whatever it is, that communication that you have between the quarterback and receiver is such a huge thing, to build and to establish that trust between one another,” said Hogan. “You could [build trust] on the field, but another thing is coming in and talking about it and making sure you’re that on the same page and seeing the same thing on the field.”
That’s the kind of issue facing someone like Patterson, who has always struggled to fully grasp NFL offenses. His physical skills are undeniable, but his limitations in route-running and picking up playbooks have always held him back offensively. Perhaps having Brady throw him the ball makes a big difference for him. But he’ll still need to consistently be where Brady expects him to be in order to become as reliable as Edelman and Hogan have been.
Brady himself was asked about building trust with his receivers, and acknowledged that it’s an ongoing long-term effort.
“It doesn’t magically happen, I know that,” Brady said in his Wednesday presser. “But at the same time, when you’ve played with guys for a long period of time I think you know the body language, you know kind of the things they may do really well, things they may do maybe not as well.
“The experience you got with certain players I think is very helpful but at the same time I don’t think you take it for granted. You got to get out there and practice it, you got to see and gain that daily trust and a big part of it is things change over the course of an offseason, they change over the course of a season, gameplan, new routes, new schemes, new matchups. You got to go out there and show it on the practice field so that we can all gain trust in each other.”
Right now, Dorsett appears closest to achieving the same level of trust that Brady has with the likes of Edelman, Hogan, James White, and Rob Gronkowski. Even if he’s not as far along as he or Brady want him to be, he knows who to turn to if he wants to get closer.
Edelman won’t hesitate to help him or any of the other receivers, nor would he hold back in his praise.
“I’m not a talent evaluator, not a coach, I’m not a GM – you’d have to ask those guys about that,” said Edelman. “But I’m excited for them for their opportunity, and I’m definitely confident in them.”
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.