'Minitron' Edelman is Mr. Dependable

For the second time in as many weeks, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman paced the team with nine catches on Sunday, going over 100 yards for the third time during his standout season.

Edelman has emerged as a top target among the Patriots' wide receivers, totaling 70 catches through 12 games, nearly double his career-high for a single season and 33 more than any teammate.

In grabbing his 70th catch of 2013 on Sunday, Edelman triggered an incentive in his one-year contract signed this past offseason that will pay him $250,000. In total, his compensation for 2013 will just eclipse $1 million, qualifying him as one of the best bargains in football and setting him up for a potential payday this offseason when he once again is scheduled to hit free agency.

The former college quarterback has always had a strong relationship with the quarterback now throwing him footballs, and Tom Brady has come up with a nickname for Edelman: "Minitron," a play on the nickname for Detroit Lions receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.

So, what's changed for Edelman in 2013 that has led to the spike in production? Is it improvement of skills, or simply a larger offensive role with new pieces in place for the Patriots among Brady's pass catchers?

The quarterback dug into that topic during his weekly interview on the "Dennis & Callahan show" on WEEI sports radio in Boston on Monday morning.

"Minitron had a good game yesterday and he's been consistent and dependable, and you know, he's always had a great skill set, it's just been a matter of him getting the opportunity," Brady said. "And then, staying on the field. There's been a few years where he hasn't been able to finish the season, but when he's been out there, he's been productive."

"This year has been a good year for him, he's really taken to a leadership role, he's just done a great job really cementing his dependability," Brady continued. "Which is really what you're looking for on offense. He's become a real dependable player for us, and his ability to get open and catch the ball and do something with it, you especially see that on punt returns. But for a guy to get the ball in his hands and then make as many plays as he's making has been huge for our team."

During a season that the Patriots have had to work through numerous injuries to pass catchers, Edelman's consistency has proved paramount.

"Especially with so many guys -- KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] was out yesterday, [Aaron] Dobson was out yesterday, Danny's [Amendola] been out for a period of time, [Josh] Boyce hasn't played, [Austin] Collie was in there for a little bit, Gronk's [Rob Gronkowski] been out, Shane's [Vereen] been out, [Stevan] Ridley's been out," Brady said. "The one dependable player that's been there every week that we've really been able to count on has been Julian, and that's a role that he's really relished and he's really taken advantage of that opportunity."