Could New England Patriots second-year-pro Gunner Olszewski be the next Julian Edelman? If Edelman has anything to do with it, the answer is yes.
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Edelman Loves Olszewski
Edelman has taken it upon himself to do his best to ensure the 2020 New England Patriots are a better than the detractors are expecting. Some have predicted the Patriots will not only fail to win the AFC East title for the first time in 12 years, but some have also opined that in light of Tom Brady’s departure, the team will even miss the postseason.
As I covered before, Edelman isn’t happy about the disrespect.
Part of what he’s doing to help the team achieve beyond what’s expected of them is working with the young quarterback Jarrett Stidham, whom many expect to replace Brady. Edelman is also working with veteran QB Brian Hoyer, whom he already knows well from previous stints with the Patriots.
Perhaps flying under the radar is Edelman’s offseason work with the young receivers. One Edelman seems to have taken to more than others is Olszewski. Per NFL analyst Mike Giardi, Edelman loves Olszewski, and has taken him “under his wing.”
In an interview on WEEI radio, Giardi said this:
There’s been a lot of discussion around him [Edelman], which is another reason why I wanted to talk to some people in addition to the more important stuff we were doing, but the football stuff, (he’s) been very involved in the throwing sessions, very involved with the other receivers and getting them comfortable with the playbook and the system. Damiere Byrd has been working out and he has been helping Byrd and obviously he has taken Gunner Olszewski under his wing. He loves that kid. Gunner has been part of this as well.
Edelman’s chemistry with Brady was a big part of his success in the NFL. Naturally, if he can impress upon Olszewski the importance of finding that same kind of connection with Stidham, or even Hoyer, it will benefit him in 2020 and perhaps beyond.
Edelman and Olszewski’s Similarities
Olszewski and Edelman have some similarities–beyond the fact that both are white wide receivers. Both men’s initial contribution to the team has come on special teams. Just as Edelman got his opportunity with the Patriots as a punt returner, Olszewski earned a spot on the 2019 team largely because of that skill set.
Like Edelman, he had to go through a position change in the NFL. Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State. He wasn’t terribly accurate, but he was often the best athlete on the field. Olszewski is similarly athletic, and he played cornerback in college at Division II Bemidji State. While he wasn’t drafted, the Minnesota Vikings invited him to camp after the 2019 Draft and played him at CB.
The Patriots picked him up, and converted him to WR, the same as they did with Edelman. He looked strong in the preseason but was placed on injured reserve in Week 9 with leg injuries.
Olszewski’s Impediments Toward Playing Time
Olszewski seems like a bit of a longshot to make the team and contribute. After all, Edelman, the player who has positioned himself as a mentor of sorts, still requires a multitude of snaps in the slot.
Undrafted rookie receivers Jeff Thomas, Isaiah Zuber, and Stidham’s college teammate Will Hastings will also be in the mix. You can’t forget about Byrd, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason. He has top-flight speed as is known for his work ethic. It won’t be easy for Olszewski, but he does have a great teacher.