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The Forgotten Ray Edwards

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Since much of the talk here continues to center on improving the pass rush and the offensive line, we're going to hammer those points for the time being. We've got months ahead of us to talk about the wide receivers and the secondary, after all.

Today, I want to take a minute to look more closely at Ray Edwards. With John Abraham back and plenty of discussion about the relative merits of Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury and Falcoholic favorite-for-no-good-reason-just-yet Cliff Matthews, Edwards has been the forgotten man. Every now and then someone takes a swipe at his low sack total or jumps up to defend him, but by and large it's quiet.

So why remember Ray Edwards? I can think of a few good reasons:

  1. He's signed for the new few years and locked in as a starter
  2. He was a dominant run-stopping end in 2011
  3. He'll be fully healthy in 2012 and there's seemingly nowhere to go but up for his pass-rushing numbers

Edwards is interesting because he seemed to prove a lot of fans' points in 2011. Without Jared Allen as a bookend, his sack total shrank from eight all the way down to 3.5. He legitimately struggled to generate consistent pressure, and I'm not going to sugarcoat that.

Still, there's reasons to believe that sack total will rise in 2012.The first is that, as I mentioned, he's expected to be healthy after some leg procedures that sapped some of his burst in 2011. He's already a fundamental tackler and he takes good angles to the quarterback, so getting his speed and drive back to pre-injury levels should give him a boost. The second is that Mike Nolan is expected to ask his guys to blitz more and deploy them more creatively, which should give Ray more opportunities.

Is Edwards going to suddenly explode for 10 sacks? I'd say there's not a great chance of that. Could he very easily get six or seven and provide better pressure than he did a year ago? I would say there's a much better chance of that. If he does that, he's suddenly quite valuable.

And remember that he's a great run-stopping defensive end, which makes him the only guy who can be considered a full-time starter at defensive end out of the team's five man rotation. If he's healthy and he improves in 2012, I think we'll all be glad the Falcons signed him. That is still an if, of course.

What do you think?