Edwards was the obvious pick for this year’s most disappointing player, which is why he will be a key player to watch in 2012. As I mentioned in the linked piece, Edwards was a marginal improvement in 2011 in the pass rush department over the much-maligned Jamaal Anderson. After the season, Edwards’ lack of production was blamed on his bothersome knee that was operated on during last year’s lockout. But one wonders just how much the knee was really bothering him since he missed a total of three practices and was limited in three others all year long due to the knee injury, out of a total of fifty-one.
But regardless of whatever is to blame for Edwards lack of production, the bottom line is that in 2012 he has to step up his play. The Falcons paid him a hefty salary to improve the team’s pass rush. And while the pass rush did take positive steps last year, the Falcons are going to need more of that if they hope to make the playoffs and make a deep run in 2012. The Falcons pass rush has been a problem area for much of Mike Smith’s tenure as the head coach. The Falcons suffered through three seasons hoping that Jamaal Anderson would improve, and Kroy Biermann would emerge as the bookend player to John Abraham. That never happened, and thus when the team signed Edwards, they hoped those issues were over.
That did not prove to be the case in 2011, and needs to be the case in 2012, otherwise Ray Edwards may not last much longer as a Falcon. The team is desperately looking for someone that can take the mantle of the team’s top and most feared pass rusher from John Abraham in the coming years, and Edwards is in prime position. One of the reasons why the Falcons have struggled over the years in beating some of the league’s more prolific offenses such as the Saints and Packers has been because of their inability to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. If the Falcons intend to close the gap on such teams in 2012, they will need to do a better job getting after the quarterback.