Julian Edelman, perhaps better than anyone not named Tom Brady, understands the pressure to perform as a member of the New England Patriots. More often than not, Edelman rose to the challenge in the game's brightest spotlights, as the former receiver made plenty of clutch receptions that helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls during his time in Forborough.
The Patriots may no longer be at the top of the hill in the NFL, but their recent success -- along with the fact that Bill Belichick is still their coach -- has kept the franchise in the spotlight in the post-Brady era. Speaking of quarterbacks, Edelman recently spoke of the pressure first-round pick Mac Jones will face in his rookie season, not just from Belichick but from the team's fan base, which is accustomed to winning.
"He needs to have that eye," Edelman said on Michael Irvin's podcast, via WEEI. "He needs to have that confidence. … What are you going to do? This kid, it's not easy playing in New England, especially after Tom Brady, if he gets the opportunity and beats out the other guy. This ain't going to be easy. This town is tough. This town is mean. This town is blue-collar. Boston people, the New England people, they want winning. They're used to that in all sports. The kid's going to have a lot of pressure."
While Boston's fan base is notoriously passionate, Jones is coming from Alabama and a fan base that is also accustomed to winning. Last season (his first and only year as Alabama's full-time starting quarterback), Jones rose to the occasion while helping lead the Crimson Tide to their sixth national championship under Nick Saban. Jones was at his best in the big games; he threw 14 touchdowns and just one interception in Alabama's final three games of the 2020 season. He threw five touchdowns without an interception in Alabama's 52-24 win over Ohio State in the College Football Championship.
"I think his performance this past year sort of speaks for itself," Saban recently said of Jones. "Mac is very bright. Really reads defenses well. He's very accurate and throws the long ball extremely well. He's athletic enough to play his position and avoid the defense if he needs to. He may not be the flashiest guy in the world, but he's so productive and accurate."
Edelman also weighed in on Cam Newton, who is currently ahead of Jones on the Patriots' projected depth chart. While the general consensus is that Jones will eventually ascend as the Patriots' starting quarterback, Newton will undoubtedly get every opportunity to show that he is still the Patriots' best option under center. During his first season in New England, Newton completed nearly 66% of his passes while running for 12 touchdowns, his highest total since his rookie season. And while an underwhelming supporting cast contributed to Newton throwing just eight touchdowns in 15 games, the Patriots have replenished their receiving corps with players that include Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and tight end Hunter Henry.
"He's probably been working hard," Edelman said of Newton. "That's his M.O. Cam works hard. Now we've got to see if he can work smart in the right areas, and if he does that, he's going to give himself an opportunity to do well. But he's also going to have to beat out the young gun, because the young guy is there — little Mac Attack. This kid, that's a first-round draft pick. That's, like, a real first-round draft pick."