At midseason, the pick was Matt Ryan due to some inconsistent play during September coupled with high expectations going into the season. But now, a new winner has clearly emerged.
That player is none other than Ray Edwards, who I discussed briefly when talking about the team’s top newcomers before. But Edwards was a major disappointment, considering the Falcons brought him in to improve their pass rush. And while the Falcons pass rush did improve overall, it was hard to tell just by looking at Edwards.
When you examine the fact that Edwards played twice as many snaps as Jamaal Anderson did last year in terms of plays where he was asked to rush the passer, yet generated the same number of hits and pressures is very telling. Sure, Edwards wound up with 3.5 more sacks, but if you really go back and look at all of those sacks, they become a lot less impressive.
In all of the cases of his sacks, they came on plays were a teammate of his was able to get pressure as well and essentially flush the QB into Edwards waiting arms. Against Green Bay, his first sack of the year was the result of Aaron Rodgers spinning out of the grasp of Vance Walker into Edwards waiting arms. He had a sack in each of the Panthers games, and in one it came as a result from he, Babineaux, and Abraham all meeting Cam Newton practically at the same time. Edwards only wound up with the sack because it was to his side of the pocket where Newton slid to avoid the hits from Babineaux and Abraham off his backside. In the other Panther game, Edwards got backside pressure off the edge, but Babineaux got interior pressure, and with Babs in his face, Newton fled deeper in the pocket into the arms of Edwards. And then his half-sack against the Jaguars was shared with Abraham, because Abraham knocked Gabbert into Edward’s arms.
Now if you want to make the case that because the team’s overall pass rush improved, that Edwards presence and value was to help free up his teammates, then I will certainly buy that argument. And I will also buy that there were perhaps instances where teammates were assisted by Edwards in getting their own sacks just like he was by them.
But the fact still remains that the difference between Edwards and Anderson was fairly marginal, and that’s not at all what the Falcons were expecting nor paid for. Here’s hoping that Edwards is next year’s pick for Most Improved Player.
And just for the sake of argument, I would have also considered Sam Baker and Dunta Robinson. But in Baker’s case, he wasn’t particularly good in 2010, and many folks wanted him to be benched then. So the fact that he was benched this year in the eyes of many was just long overdue. And Robinson had enough good moments down the stretch to really keep him totally out of the doghouse.