FOXBORO — The proof is in the parking spot. And the performance.
Julian Edelman clearly hasn't rested on his shocker of a rookie season. The converted quarterback from Kent State hardly rested on his 37-catch, 359-yard campaign.
"He's a baller, that's it," said Patriots safety Pat Chung of Edelman, who caught 6 passes for 90 yards before exiting for good in the early stages of the third quarter of last night's 27-24 exhibition opening win over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
The effort spoke volumes on a night when veterans Wes Welker and Torry Holt sat out and receiving hopefuls Brandon Tate and Taylor Price were quiet, combining for one catch.
Of all the numbers that matter, focus only on the number six, not just six catches but six clean catches on six balls thrown Edelman's way.
If the 5-10, 198-pounder had an Achilles' heel a year ago, it was drops, or at least bobbles that too often squelched drives.
To me, the fact that he earned one of 10 prime parking spots for dedication to the offseason conditioning program then sparkled like nobody else on the field last night should loom large for an offense seeking game-breakers to augment Randy Moss and Welker.
"For a guy who had never played receiver until a little over a year ago, he does a lot of things well," said New England coach Bill Belichick. "Julian is a good player. He pays attention to little things. Julian is one of those players that when you ask him to work on something, he really puts everything into it."
New Orleans, which played without starting safety Darren Sharper, simply had no answers for Edelman. He had Saints diving for air a handful of times.
"That's what every guy should be when they have the ball in their hands," said Edelman, who ran the run-based option offense at Kent State. "That's what we get paid to do, right? Make guys miss?"
As "unfair" as Edelman characterized the comparisons to Welker, you can't help but admire his instinct and ability, especially to make space on short routes and evade tacklers in the open field.
"He's the best slot in the game, I learn everything (from him)," said Edelman. "I learn how to be a professional. I learn how to prepare. I learn how to run routes. It was a blessing to come here and sit behind a guy like that and watch him practice and run routes and how he prepares.
"Wes has been a huge part of helping me develop and still is. He's out there and he's running routes and I'm still learning things and watching his film."
Edelman's emergence, while it's early, could ultimately come at a price.
Since he and Welker (5-9, 185) are slight, they play in the slot, off the line.
Belichick coaches with a simple philosophy: find a way to get the best 11 players on the field as much as possible.
That would likely mean four-receiver sets, more shotgun offense and less reliance on the running game or the tight ends. Belichick used a pair of rookie tight ends (2nd-rounder Rob Gronkowski, 4th-rounder Aaron Hernandez).
Last night, Tom Brady was under center for 14 offensive snaps (out of 17) in the game's initial two drives.
Brady chose not to speak to the media last night, but you have to figure he welcomes the addition of another game-changer on the outside. Especially as heads into the final year of his contract without a long-term extension yet.
If any team exploited big-play weapons, it was the champion Saints, who had nine different receivers figure in Drew Brees' 34 TD passes last year, with eight players catching balls of 22 yards or longer.
Brady threw 28 TD passes last year, 13 of which were to Moss.
There was little balance, something Edelman and hopefully guys like Holt, Tate or Price can provide.
"He's still learning, and he's still getting better," said Belichick of Edelman.