Julian Edelman is the New England Patriots' clear No. 1 wide receiver. He ranks third in the NFL in receptions and has at least seven catches in five consecutive games.
Which begs the question: If Edelman such an essential part of the Patriots' offense, why don't opposing defenses load up to stop him?
The answer: That's easier said than done.
Ahead of Sunday's Eagles-Patriots matchup in Philadelphia, Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox explained why teams have a hard time containing Edelman even when they're keyed in on him.
"He's very quick. Physical. Great hands," Maddox said Friday, via NFL Network's Mike Giardi. "They (Edelman and quarterback Tom Brady) got a connection between them two that is very unique.
"His route running ... it's hard to know whether he's going in or out."
Maddox's scouting report checks out. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice recently claimed Edelman has the best footwork of any wide receiver in the NFL, citing his ability to get separation with quick explosive cuts.
Edelman likely will be Maddox's problem Sunday, as the 23-year-old has been playing slot cornerback for Philly with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby playing on the outside.
Maddox knows staying with Edelman will be a tall task, but he has a plan of attack for Sunday.
"You've just got to be aggressive," Maddox said, via Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times. "You've got to get in the receiver's face. You can't give him too much room (for Brady) to pick you apart."
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While the investigation into the New England Patriots' illicit videotaping of the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline last weekend is ongoing, The Washington Post's Mark Maske is reporting that the punishment could be aligned in severity with similiar game-day violations committed by other NFL teams in recent years.
That means fines in the range of six figures and/or a reduced round value on a draft pick — or worse still, the loss of one altogether:
"The NFL is likely to penalize the New England Patriots for their admitted violation of league video policy last weekend and is contemplating disciplinary measures in line with those imposed on teams in recent seasons for infractions of game-day rules, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
That could mean a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially the loss or reduction in value of a draft choice, typically a lower-level pick."
Looking for something similar to what the Patriots were levied for Spygate? Maske points out that punishment was clearly an exception, not a guardrail:
The Patriots have admitted wrongdoing in last Sunday's incident in Cleveland, in which a credentialed Patriots video crew member was caught filming the Bengals' sideline during their game against the Browns. New England has said the camera crew was there to feature a scout as part of their "Do Your Job" video series.
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Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and center Ted Karras, who were each listed as questionable with injuries, made the trip to Cincinnati with the team Saturday but backup defensive tackle Byron Cowart was downgraded to out with a concussion, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Edelman, the team's leading receiver, has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Karras, the starting center, missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday with a knee injury. Both were limited in practice this week.
The Patriots (10-3), coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and Chiefs, play the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.