ATLANTA — Patriots wideout Julian Edelman is considered one of the top receiving threats in the league — and for good reason. Despite coming back from an ACL tear this season, and sitting out four games at the start of the year due to a suspension, he still caught 74 passes for 850 yards with six touchdowns in 2018.
And he's come up huge in the postseason for New England, catching nine passes for 151 yards in the Patriots victory over the Chargers in the Divisional round, and seven passes for 96 yards in the win over the Chiefs in the AFC title game.
So it stands to reason that how he performs could be a significant factor in determining the outcome of Super Bowl LIII.
While he primarily lines up in the slot, safety John Johnson said with the diversity of New England's scheme, Edelman goes all over.
"Oh they move everybody around. It's similar to New Orleans — like the personnel groupings and how they use their players," Johnson said. "But he's a good player, but I think our study, we've got a good grasp on what they like to do so if we can get past those wrinkles they like to throw in, I think we'll be OK."
If there's one player on the Rams who has a good idea of what it's going to be like covering Edelman, it's slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. He played New England twice a season for his first four years in the league with Buffalo, so there is a lot of familiarity with the matchup.
"I think he's aggressive. I think he's more aggressive than people really think he is, you know? I like his style and how he blocks," Robey-Coleman said. "You know, he reminds me of myself on defense a little bit. So we're both going to be playing with chips on our shoulder. Then, I don't even think it's going to be so much about the matchup a little bit — it's just going to be like two aggressive guys scrapping, going at it all night, four quarters. So I think it's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun battle."
Robey-Coleman has played well in Los Angeles' scheme over the last two years defending the slot, and that's part of what gives his teammates like Lamarcus Joyner a lot of confidence heading into Sunday's game.
"I believe in the guys that we have," Joyner said. "Talking about Julian Edelman, I think about Nickell Robey and short-space quickness, and how he has done a phenomenal job throughout his career of guarding tough slot guys. So when you're thinking about names from the Patriots, I can think about guys from the Rams who match up very well."
But then there's the unpredictable element — and that's how Edelman could potentially use his arm. A former college quarterback, Edelman completed a pair of passes this season, and also threw a 51-yard touchdown back in the 2014 playoffs.
Are the Rams expecting some trickery?
"I wouldn't be surprised," Johnson said. "We've gotten hit — it was the Cardinals, they threw a double pass. So I wouldn't be surprised."
Either way, the ability to throw creates another factor to watch in the matchup between the Rams defense and the Patriots offense.
"That makes him versatile. That makes him very versatile and it gives him another, I guess, avenue to venture down," Robey-Coleman said. "His arm could definitely impact [the game]. But we're going to be on the screws on stuff like that. We've got our eyes on stuff like that, too."
Check out photos from practice as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.