Wide receiver Julian Edelman is having a career year for the New England Patriots entering Sunday afternoon’s game against the Dolphins in Miami.
He leads the team with 76 catches for 775 yards and five touchdowns. He’s stayed healthy for the first time in his career and taken advantage of the extra opportunities he’s gotten on a retooled Patriots offense.
He’s also earned himself a new nickname from fellow Northern California native Tom Brady. The quarterback has begun to refer to his favorite target as Minitron, an obvious play on Calvin Johnson’s Megatron nickname.
“I like it. It fits him well,” Brady said with a smile, although he wouldn’t reveal the roots of the new nickname. “That’s very private between he and I. Yes. But I do like it. It fits him very well, hence the nickname.”
Tackle Solder returns
Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder was on the practice field Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s session with a concussion.
Solder suffered a concussion in last weekend’s victory over the Cleveland Browns and missed Wednesday’s practice while going through the league’s concussion protocol
If Solder can’t play on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, the team may be forced to move veteran Will Svitek into his place on the left side of the line. Svitek has been starting in place of Marcus Cannon at right tackle because of an ankle injury, but Cannon has practiced both days this week.
Receiver Boyce improving
WR Josh Boyce saw by far his most extensive playing time of the season in Sunday’s comeback win over the Browns. A lot of that had to do with the fact that two fellow rookies who’ve been ahead of him on the depth chart since the summer — Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) — were inactive due to injury. But according to coach Bill Belichick it also was a result of the work that Boyce has constantly been putting in on the practice field, progressing as the year has worn on.
Boyce caught three passes for 49 yards against the Browns, and also drew a 29-yard pass interference call in the end zone that set up the game-winning score with less than a minute to play. For the season, the speedy fourth-round pick out of TCU now has five catches for 79 yards and is averaging a team-best 24.4 yards on his eight kickoff returns.
Talib a good fit
CB Aqib Talib has been a good fit in New England on and off the field since the day he arrived in a trading deadline deal from Tampa Bay last season. Despite battling a hip injury both last year and again this season, Talib has regularly matched up with the top receiver on the opposition. He’s been competitive or gotten the better of most of those matchups, as was the No. 2 vote-getter among fans for this year’s Pro Bowl at last check.
In the locker room, Talib has brought an infectious energy not just to the group of defensive backs, but the entire team. He also has seemingly taken on a leadership role, maybe somewhat surprising for a guy who’s had his share of off-field issues in the past.
“He has a very good energy and he’s a good teammate,”coach Bill Belichick said. “I think he’s very respected in the locker room but liked in the locker room, which is not always the case. But I think he has a good rapport with everybody: the offensive players, the defensive players, the DBs and the skill players but also the other guys, the linemen. He just has a good way about him. He’s not the class clown, but at the same time, he has a good personality and he’s serious and he’s competitive. He’s got a nice mixture of all those things. I don’t even know what I’m saying, but it kind of goes well in a lot of different settings.”
Game moved to 4:25 p.m. kickoff
New England’s Week 16 game in Baltimore has been flexed out of its original NBC Sunday Night Football 8:20 p.m. slot and is now a 4:25 p.m. kickoff to be aired on CBS. NBC chose to utilize the NFL’s flex scheduling rules to move a matchup between the Bears and Eagles in Philadelphia into the prime-time slot.