Julian Edelman and Danny Woodhead should be looking over their shoulders starting this week as the New England Patriots have signed former Florida Gator running back/kick returner, Olympic Silver Medalist and track star Jeff Demps to a three year contract, ESPN reported late Friday night
The Patriots hope that Demps can aid the return game with his speed and elusiveness, which last year was subpar in both punt (ranked 16th in the NFL with an average of 10.2 yards) and kickoff (29th return at 21.4 yards). At Florida he averaged 18.5 yards per punt and 28.8 on kickoffs with a touchdown.
Additionally Demps can help offensively as well. In his career at Florida, he rushed 367 times for 2,470 yards (6.7 yard avg.) and 54 catches for 481 yards (8.4 yard avg.) but scored 24 touchdowns (23 rushing, 1 receiving).
His one downfall, which he will need to correct to see the field, or remain with the team, is his propensity to let the ball go. He fumbled 11 times in 424 touches in his career at Florida.
What does the signing mean for Edelman and Woodhead and their roster spots?
Of the two, I think Edelman would be the safer. Edelman is the team’s Swiss army knife as he plays WR, punt returner, part time fill-in for the secondary and with his experience at Kent State, can play quarterback in an emergency. Edelman had shown flashes in his rookie year, even drawing comparisons to All-Pro WR Wes Welker, but his involvement has been up and down in his three years with the team. This is his first threat of not making the team after his rookie camp, where he came in as a 7th round selection. We should see how he handles it this time.
Danny Woodhead, a fifth year RB out of Chadron State, has come in and filled the role vacated by long time Patriot Kevin Faulk after Faulk tore his ACL in 2010. Woodhead, who is the same height as Demps, 5’7”, could be in trouble if Demps can figure out the offense and protect the ball. They both having a lot of similar skills, so why keep both?
Woodhead and Edelman had better play a very good game and leave good impressions with head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels before Demps can start practicing. McDaniels is already thinking of ways to use his new weapon.
This will add to the WR, offensive line drama going on camp.