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Pat reprises versatile role

The Patriots’ Julian Edelman returns one of his two punts against the Broncos during their AFC division game. He also catches one pass as a receiver and makes two tackles as a cornerback.

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The Patriots’ Julian Edelman returns one of his two punts against the Broncos during their AFC division game. He also catches one pass as a receiver and makes two tackles as a cornerback.

INDIANAPOLIS — Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and the other Giants receivers can't wait to go against the Patriots' Julian Edelman during Sunday's Super Bowl.

And why not? The receiver/punt returner also plays cornerback, a position he's still learning.

Manningham said it will be a mismatch in New York's favor any time he or his fellow wideouts are covered by the former Kent State quarterback, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009 by the Patriots.

"He plays wide receiver," Manningham said. "He's not a real defensive back. Did he get drafted as a defensive back? We have a little bond going on knowing that we can beat somebody. We're confident. I hope he's out there."

Cruz, the Giants' top receiver with 82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, also said Edelman will be targeted.

"I see he's very raw at that position, obviously, because it's not his dominant position. But he's quick. He's fast, and he carries over a lot of the receiver stuff over to (cornerback)," Cruz said.

"Obviously, it's going to be a position and an area that we'll test out really early and see how it goes and how the game flows."

Edelman is following in the footsteps of former Patriot Troy Brown. Primarily a receiver and punt returner, injuries in 2004 prompted coach Bill Belichick to give Brown snaps at cornerback. (He intercepted three passes.)

Early this season, injuries to cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Patrick Chung prompted Belichick to give Edelman snaps in nickel and dime situations. (He has 22 tackles but no interceptions.)

Before this season, Edelman last played defensive back as a freshman in high school.

"It's ultimately a foreign thing for me," he said. "You're doing everything backward from covering a guy to terminology on the defensive side of the ball. The coaches and the players surrounding me have helped me out a bunch."

Belichick says Edelman is adjusting well.

"He has a knack for it. He picked it up quickly," he said. "He's a smart, hardworking guy. If you ask him to do something, he'll work really hard to get it right and try to do it."

Patriots corner Kyle Arrington said teammates are confident when Edelman moves to defense.

"He has that mentality, that beast mode in him," Arrington said. "He's tough. He's fast. He's physical. I have no worries about Julian. He's good."

Pat reprises versatile role 02/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 4, 2012 12:18am]
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