Pros: Has good, strong athletic build. Shows comfort and range to drop into shallow coverages to cover backs and tight ends in the flat on the zone blitz. Uses his quick first step to challenge the edge and most effective when he can line up wide in a 9-technique and pin his ears back to get after the quarterback. Has the sort of edge speed that is a difficult matchup for the majority of right tackles in the league. Occasionally flashes the technique and hand use to use rips, spins, and bull rush to beat the blocker. Has a decent power move inside.
Cons: Tends to rely on his speed to beat the tackle, and not that effective when you can chip him or the blocker gets his hands on him. Doesn’t do a good job using his hands and technique to disengage on the edge. Lacks the elite edge speed to dip the shoulder and turn the corner on a consistent basis. Struggles too often at the point of attack against the run. Will get pushed off the ball by the double team and struggles to get off blocks. Results in him not making many plays against the run. At times will get too far upfield, taking himself out of plays. Has an inconsistent motor at times.
2011 Outlook: Edwards is a gifted athlete that is looking to prove skeptics wrong in his first year with the Falcons. Many thought he was the player that benefited the most playing on a stacked Vikings defensive line. The Falcons are hoping that Edwards added ability on the left side of their line will make several other players up front better.
Count me potentially as one of those skeptics. Edwards is a good player that is a very good complementary piece up front, but he’s yet to consistently show he’s a guy that opposing teams have to gameplan for like his former linemates in Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, and new teammate John Abraham. But Edwards definitely is a player that should help the Falcons weak pass rush this year.
He should be at his best on obvious passing downs such as third down when he can pin his ears back and get upfield to pressure the QB. His addition also means that players like Kroy Biermann and Abraham should be better rested because they should see decreased reps for both on earlier downs. He is also superior to Biermann in terms of dropping in coverage, which isn’t a huge deal until you realize that it means the Falcons should be more effective with their zone blitzes because he, like Abraham, is somewhat comfortable playing in space.
In Summary… Edwards definitely has athletic potential, and he’s quick enough that he could potentially make a switch to the right side of the line on a permanent basis in 2012 and beyond if the Falcons do not hold onto Abraham. But he’s not nearly as capable as Abraham is even at this point in his career. Abraham is probably still a quarter or half-step quicker and has a much more polished array of moves. But if some of that can rub off on Edwards, he potentially could ascend into the type of pass rusher and playmaker that opposing teams are going to fear in the future.