There is no question Julio Jones is the most talented receiver in the NFL.
Inside. Outside. Vertical. Horizontal. Dude had a 300-yard receiving game this season. 300!
No one does that. Check that, Julio Jones did.
Based on his sheer size, strength, speed and skill, Jones is in a class all by himself, and no one would dare put Julian Edelman in the same area code as Jones, let alone the same sentence. Well, except for that one time…and this one writer.
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Edelman doesn’t have the measurables and he sure as hell doesn’t get the press, at least outside of New England. But his production is consistent, and the respect he has from those that play alongside him is evident.
“Julian has a wealth of talent,” said fullback James Develin. “He’s got it all. The thing that really sticks out to me the most is his competitiveness and his toughness. The guy takes lick after lick and hit after hit and just keeps ticking. I really respect that. Julian is a great player. I’d have him on my team any day.”
“I think people that know football know he’s one of the best,” Chris Long said. “The way he works, the way he brings it every day, the role he’s played here is very good for what we do, and great at breaking tackles. Tough player. I think he’s got, obviously, everybody’s respect in our locker room. I think football players that really know the game know he’s one of the best.”
So why then would former number one overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, himself a terrific pro, declare that Edelman - and anyone else you’d consider a top-3 receiver for the Pats - are borderline pros. Johnson told 92.9 The Fan in Atlanta, "When you see guys that fail and play for other teams at the receiver position, they can go to New England and excel and everybody goes, 'Oh my God, Oh my God, these receivers are top of the game.' Well, they couldn't excel with other teams because of the system. If they were on other teams right now, they probably wouldn't be on the 53-man roster."
I took that to Edelman at the Pats media availability Tuesday. He was prepared.
“I’m not worried about what people are saying, I’m worried about what people are doing,” he said matter-of-factly. “Week in and week out, we ignore noise and just try to hunker down on preparation and on going out and trying to play our best games on Sundays.”
And that’s what Edelman believes not only defines him, but that entire room.
“We definitely have a bond,” he said. “We got a room that has a group of guys that like to work, that are dedicated to making their craft better and not just with receiving and catching, but contributing in the run game. Every guy in that room is a team guy. Physically tough. Mentally tough. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Nor would his teammates, who were willing to say what Edelman and the rest of that wideout group wouldn’t when asked about Keyshawn’s comments.
“Whether he thinks our receivers wouldn’t crack a 53 or not, I’m taking my receivers over a lot of receivers because they come up and make big plays in big moments each and every week,” said Duron Harmon. “Chris Hogan…Julian Edelman, they are playing out of their minds in this playoffs and it’s going to continue because they continue to put in the work each and every week, each and every practice. They study. They prepare. I love our receivers. I love competing against them. They help me get better. So whatever as far as what Keyshawn has to say, he has his opinion but I know what I see.”
“They win a lot of football games,” added Logan Ryan. “Bill (Belichick) said the two jobs for a receiver is simple: to get open and catch the ball and I think Julian does a good job of getting open and catching the ball. I think a lot of our guys do. I’m sure all their numbers will say that. Who cares if you have Tom Brady throwing you the ball, then that’s who you have throwing you the ball. They’re producing. Period.”
No matter what Keyshawn says, that can’t be denied.