June 6, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards (93) during organized team activities at the Falcons training facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
In the wake of Sam Baker's declaration that his back finally resembles a human back, rather than a twisted people scrap metal, another Falcon wants you to know he's in shape and ready to make a difference.
That would be Ray Edwards. The former Viking came into 2011 as the clear-cut starter opposite John Abraham, and was supposed to provide the Falcons with a young, reasonably priced pass rusher to complement The Predator. Spoiler alert and all that, but it didn't happen.
We learned that Edwards had what was supposed to be minor surgery last off-season and were mildly concerned. That concern grew into a red-and-black hot anger pretty quickly when Edwards failed to close on opposing quarterbacks, which he obviously did quite a bit in 2011. He ended up with only 3.5 sacks, though he was a very stout defender against the run.
Edwards believes that he never was 100% last year after surgery, a frustrating theme for Falcons players (Peria Jerry, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier) who have dealt with leg injuries in recent years. He believes that now, though, he's back to his Viking form and ready to wreak some havoc in the backfield in Nolan's new scheme:
"Last year was last year," Edwards said. "Coming off knee surgery and jumping right into a full season was very tough on my body, period. I started having trouble with my other leg. No excuses but I went out there and put my best foot forward and continued to play. This year, I’m fully healthy."
I hope this is true. The Falcons got Edwards for a reasonable price considering his past production, but that production also came opposite Jared Allen. The Falcons need to get an excellent pass-rushing rotation going if they're going to get the job done on defense this season, and Edwards more or less has to be a big part of that. They're not paying him to contribute 3.5 sacks, that's for gosh darn sure.
My greatest fear is that the team overestimated his talent level based on his Viking production, but perhaps the more aggressive scheme and a healthy set of wheels will help him this year. If he could approach eight sacks and play his particular brand of stellar defense against the run, Edwards will be invaluable.
How do you think Edwards will fare in 2012?