For a guy who was pretty quiet both on field last season, Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards has been pretty talkative.
Edwards said the new defense is "a lot better." Specifically, there is plenty of "attacking, attacking, attacking and not dropping back into coverage." Sounds like he may be able to attack, which I suppose that means Edwards may have been on the retreat all of last year. Brian Van Gorder was always a fan of dropping defensive linemen into coverage, but it sounds like Mike Nolan may instead send them towards the quarterback.
Edwards also mentions his knee problem we knew about, and a problem with his other leg we just recently heard about. Every Falcons injury is usually shrouded in mystery but he may have been seriously hobbled last year. Not only that, but he is now more comfortable here in Atlanta. Not sure if it is health, scheme or comfort but Edwards is sounding optimistic about this year.
Will a healthy Edwards in a new scheme finally pay off, or will Atlanta continue next year with John Abraham and a bunch of rotational players? His contract may be too prohibitive for Edwards to have another underwhelming year.
Is this typical off season talk? You rarely hear a player say they never worked hard enough and took it easy through the year. Should we be expecting more of the same, with Atlanta again ranking deep in the lower half of the NFL in sacks?
Lets start off a few years back. Edwards finally managed more than 5 sacks in his contract year in 2009. He put up 8.5 sacks playing across from Jared Allen and came on late in 2010 to finish with 8 sacks, 6.5 in the last 8 games. Edwards had been clamoring for a new contract but the Vikings had refused to pay him his asking price. He got particularly angry when the Vikings decided to pay his backup Brian Robinson and not him. In return, Robinson put up more than double Edwards' sacks and pressures in 2011. Some Vikings fans were not too broken up about losing Ray Edwards after growing tired of his "me first" attitude.
Looking to break the bank after a prolonged period in Minnesota, Edwards had surprisingly few suitors, and finally signed a 5-year, $30 million with the Falcons. He was quickly handed the starting left defensive end position and even more quickly became invisible, failing to make an impact in the passing game with merely 3.5 sacks all last season. The $11 million guaranteed seemed to be a bargain is potentially ending up as a waste. Edwards came in with high hopes and delivered very little.
Certainly a poor start, but Edwards could already be in a make-or-break year. His salary goes from a manageable $3 million in 2012, to $5.5 million in 2013, an amount unreasonable for a guy who touches the quarterback and handful of times a season. It feels weird that after 6 NFL seasons, Edwards is still an unknown commodity. Was he a player who took advantage of single-teams and blocking tight ends in Minnesota when he was trying to get paid?
As far as I am concerned, Edwards does not appear to have his head in the game. He may go down as one of the many big-body NFL players who puts on the cruise control once they get paid.
I was a huge fan of our new defensive end only a year ago. Wow, this was a pretty quick turn around. Edwards came so "cheap" because he had these questions after 5 seasons in the league. His "drive" was questioned with his boxing career during the lockout and continued modeling does not help. If you have been able to continue to follow him on twitter, you will not find much about football. Even during the season. He seems more into his clothing line than making impact plays big games.
Is this an overreaction? Sure, it could be. Injuries to both legs has to be to blame and a new scheme could only help. Van Gorder never managed more than a few sacks out of anyone who was not John Abraham while Nolan has done quite the opposite. Perhaps after a full offseason Edwards will return to his contract-year performances. However I will not be holding my breath.
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