For the first time in his career, Julian Edelman is entering a season without Tom Brady.
As the receiver prepares for his 11th NFL season, everyone knows the story of Edelman and Brady. When he was a young player, Edelman was so enamored with the veteran quarterback, he moved out to California with the hope of training with Brady in the offseason. It took Edelman five years, but he became one of Brady’s go-to targets and best friends.
It’ll be hard to create a Brady-like connection with whoever starts at quarterback this season for the Patriots, but Edelman is moving forward with an open mind.
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“Obviously, it was a little different scenario. You’ve got to move on and you understand this is a business and wish him well,” Edelman said on Monday. “That’s when you instantly start to think about what you can do to prepare yourself to go out and contribute and help the team for the upcoming year. Obviously, yeah, we played a lot of ball together. I love him to death, but the train keeps moving.”
The Patriots offense is about to embark on a chapter that hasn’t been seen in New England in decades. No one knows what this offensive group will truly look like without Brady in part because we don’t know who will win the quarterback competition between Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
What is clear is that Edelman will play a big role in the offense’s success. The 34-year-old is coming off one of his best NFL seasons after finishing 2019 with 100 receptions, a career-high 1,117 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Edelman has also worked with all three quarterbacks this offseason — getting together with Newton in California as well as Stidham and Hoyer in Massachusetts.
Edelman said all three quarterbacks have made positive impressions this summer, especially Newton when the pair connected for the first time this past July.
“He’s a specimen for sure. When you first meet him, just his stature. The dude is large, put together well and he’s got a great energy,” Edelman said. “He’s got a great energy about himself. I was really impressed with his work ethic and his mindset. Just like I’ve been impressed with Stidham’s and Hoyer’s. I’ve been throwing with those guys as well. Everyone is out here and everyone is competing at all positions. Competition makes us all better.”
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When Newton signed, Edelman called him and told him the Patriots’ offensive playbook was like “calculus.” It remains to be seen how Newton acclimates to the Patriots’ playbook and system. It also remains to be seen how Stidham, entering his second NFL season, has progressed with the playbook.
Although the Patriots’ system is known for its complexity, Edelman isn’t overly concerned about any of the quarterbacks’ abilities to grasp it.
“It’s difficult, but we’ve got Hoyer who’s played here, who’s been in this system, you have Stidham, who has a year under his belt and you’ve got Cam, who, this guy is a heck of a football player,” Edelman said. “This isn’t his first year playing football. This guy is a former MVP. He’s played in a lot of big games. I’ve got a lot of faith in our coaching staff — Josh (McDaniels) and Jedd (Fisch) and offensive guys — along with some of the veteran players to go out and try our best to prepare everyone to the best we can. That’s what this season is going to be about — adjusting and overcoming certain situations that everyone has to deal with.”
The offseason workouts helped further Edelman’s relationships along with the Patriots’ quarterbacks, but the real test starts when pads come on next week (Aug. 17). As of right now, the Pats still haven’t had a single practice. There’s plenty of unknown about this offense, but whoever wins the starting quarterback job will absolutely rely on Edelman this season.
“That takes time and that takes reps and that takes experience,” Edelman said of a receiver-quarterback connection. “Right now, we’re really focused on getting our condition, brushing up our minds on the material our coaches are giving us and learning each other. … The on-the-field stuff, that comes through reps, that comes through time, that comes through meetings and just sitting and being around each other. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Julian Edelman: New England Patriots have to ‘move on’ after Tom Brady’s departure