By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman spent the first 10 years of his career with the Patriots making big catch after big catch. Now in his 11th season, he’s just looking to make any catch.
From 2013 until last season, Edelman had been New England’s most reliable receiver, a shoo-in for 7-12 catches every game. He was one of Tom Brady’s many security blankets, a safe bet to move the chains whenever the Patriots needed to keep the offense moving. If the Patriots needed to pick up eight yards to keep a drive alive, Edelman would fight tooth and nail for nine. Most of the time, there was no denying him in his quest to keep the Patriots going toward the end zone.
He was Mr. Reliable. But Edelman’s transition from having Brady as his quarterback to Cam Newton has gone as smoothly as a trip down Route 24. Newton made it sound like he’d be taking Highway 11 quite a bit when he first arrived in New England, but his GPS is making him throw the football every which way but Edelman’s over the last month.
In Sunday’s 33-6 blowout loss to the 49ers at Gillette Stadium, Edelman was targeted by Newton just once, resulting in an interception when the QB threw behind his intended target. Edelman’s only reception of the game came after Newton was benched, when Jarrett Stidham hit him for a 13-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
While it’s become clear that Edelman, now 34, has lost a step or two in the last few years, and his tendency to drop a few passes has increased, he’s still better than one catch off three targets. He’s still getting open, he’s still in a good spot to make one of those patented Edelman catch-and-runs, but the connection just isn’t there.
That all starts with the quarterback.
“We got to figure it out. Our Wi-Fi is definitely off,” Newton said after Sunday’s loss. “And it’s frustrating because knowing the person Julian is and knowing the body of work that he puts in each and every week and day, from preparation to biometrically with his body, you fall in love with a person like that.”
The connection should work, as we saw in Week 2 when Edelman exploded for 11 receptions for a career-high 179 yards. It was vintage Edelman and then some against the Seattle Seahawks, and the New England offense scored a season-high 30 points in the losing effort. The Newton-Edelman connection can be a good one.
But since that career day for Edelman, he has caught just five passes that Newton has “sent his way.” We use that phrase lightly because many of Newton’s throws to the receiver have hopped, skipped or jumped on their way there, or in many cases, been too far behind Edelman for him to do anything but get a finger tip on the ball.
Newton said that Edelman did exactly what he was supposed to do on his route that led to Sunday’s interception, but he wasn’t on the same page with his receiver. That falls squarely on Newton’s shoulders, and the QB knows it.
Many are wondering if Newton’s lack of chemistry with Edelman is because Newton is basically refusing to throw to his right since the start of the month. Newton continues to say he’s healthy, but if he’s ignoring one side of the field, there has to be some kind of explanation for it. If that’s the case, it is likely health-related.
But the bottom line is that the Patriots offense has been putrid, and the quarterback has lost any and all chemistry he had with his top receiver.
The New England offense has a lot of work to do if they want to start winning games — or at least giving the team a chance to win games. Rebuilding the chemistry between the quarterback and his No. 1 receiver is a great place to start.