The Curious Case of Ray Edwards

Once one a prized free agent, Ray Edwards was surprisingly waived by the Falcons. Khaled Elsayed goes over what may have gone wrong for him in Atlanta.

| 5 years ago

The Curious Case of Ray Edwards

Ray Edwards isn’t a bad player. But he’s no longer an Atlanta Falcons player either.

No, the man who was the Falcons’ 2011 free agency consolation prize after they missed out on Charles Johnson, has been released. Atlanta has opted to cut its losses and accept that trying to fit that square peg into its round hole just isn’t going to work.

The top question in peoples minds will be, where does the blame lie? Is it with Edwards? Is it with Atlanta? Or is it just ‘one of those things’?

The Underrated Viking

You know, I’m sick to death of hearing how Ray Edwards benefited from the guys he played with in Minnesota. The scenario painted out is that opposing teams were so occupied with the Williams Wall and Jared Allen that Edwards could moonwalk his way to the quarterback untouched.

Simply because, you know, those guys were double-teamed on every play. Sometimes even triple-teamed.

Only here’s the great thing. That’s not actually the case. There’s some chipping going on and the occasional double-team, but that happens on both sides of the line. A more legitimate argument to be made is that Edwards went up against right tackles who are weaker in pass protection. Why make a logical argument when you can make a baseless one off a few examples of the eye?

To do that might mean having to accept the facts that Edwards actual beat a lot of tackles to pick up a lot of pressure, and he did so while becoming one of the leagues’s better run defending ends. Lets take a look at his Pass Rushing Productivity rankings for the past four years.


Pass Rushes

QB Disruptions
























Look at that level of productivity. Was that all down to the talent around him? And then why did it change in Atlanta? I mean the Falcons still had guys like John Abraham (fourth in PRP in 2011) and Jonathan Babineaux (fifth in PRP of DTs in 2011) to work alongside.

Where Did It Go Wrong?

Obviously though, there’s a clear disparity between how Edwards performed for Minnesota and what he did on the field for Atlanta, and that contributed to his release. There are a number of theories that are floating around, but one that holds particular weight with me is that the Falcons didn’t use him correctly. Here’s a guy who in his final year in Minnesota spent 98.1% of his plays rushing from a defensive left end position.

In his first year in Atlanta that number was 60.2%, and the difference was evident in Edwards’s ability to generate pressure. When he was lined up as a defensive left end he picked up a pressure on 9.5% of pass rushes. When he rushed from the right side he picked up a pressure on 5.4% of plays. A huge difference and indicative of Edwards’s struggle. The Falcons designed their pass rush around Abraham getting pressure, and in doing so put Edwards in situations he was neither used to, comfortable with or productive in. They wanted Charles Johnson and when they couldn’t get him they got the next best thing and assumed they could use him the way they would Johnson.

The experiment failed, and that one has to be on the Atlanta scouting department and the urge to spend some money in free agency. Still, Edwards himself hasn’t been as productive. He has to take a large part of that blame because he’s been in enough favorable positions, and in enough one-on-one matchups, to get more pressure than he has. His work in run defense hasn’t suffered but the -12.4 grade we’ve given him for his pass rushing is a far cry from the +33.4 he managed in his last two years in Minnesota.

Where Does He Go From Here?

Just because a relationship doesn’t work out doesn’t mean a player is doomed or finished. We’ve seen guys struggle in places and flourish elsewhere. Edwards is still only 27 years old despite his six years of NFL experience, and has proven himself to be a capable every-down player in the right scheme.

The next question is where is that right scheme. He’s a bigger, more powerful defensive end who’s best fit is likely on the left side. The league isn’t short on those types of players. The Browns have their Jabaal Sheard. The Saints have their Cameron Jordan. The Bills have their Mario Williams. There really isn’t a place right now that Edwards would go and offer a significant upgrade for the likely deal he’ll be expecting.

Of course, the way these things work out some team is bound to have him in for a visit. Some team is bound to make him an offer even if it is in the short term. There Edwards will get an opportunity to show what he’s got and try and turn that into a more significant deal in free agency.

Only he’s got a giant buyer beware sign on him now. And no team will want to make the mistakes the Falcons made with him.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • AHaakst

    Oh, this just smells like a move the Patriots would make, doesn’t it? That’s if they can get him for cheap.

    • Pat Thorman

      Absolutely. Ninkovich was (and is, in a small sample) better coming from the right side, but they have Chandler Jones there now and RN hasn’t performed as well on the left. Rotating Edwards in there, where he’s comfortable, might just work. Plus, he’s good vs the run and the Pats have Houston and SF coming up right after Thanksgiving.

    • Shaun

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Although, Ninkovich is having a hell of a year, I would hate to see that taking for granted. But if this makes you a better, than you do it. I’d be interested to see a dime package with Edwards, Ninkovich, Cunningham and Jones all on the line. They’d give up a lot of size, but 3 of 4 are great run defenders and would make for a fast line.

  • DelawareVike

    RayRay got paid, and that is all he was ever worried about. His true motivation came out when instead of focusing on football, cried about his ‘bakup’ getting an extension. Well Robison has been great and will be in Hawaii at the end of the season for the Pro Bowl, while RayRay will be staring at his sofa sized painting wondering why nobody loves him.

  • Scott Carasik

    The difference is guys is that Edwards got cut more for off the field issues than on field.

  • Dorkus

    It was certainly a combination of him playing against right tackles, but you cannot discount how the attention that was focused on the Williams Wall and Jared Allen made Ray better than he was.

    Just like how his 8″ height advantage over his boxing opponents helped him look like a better boxer than he was.

    Ray had some skills, there is no doubt, but he was nowhere near as good as people made him out to be

  • draftrobot

    The most likely reason is Edwards hasn’t been healthy since he left Minnesota. He had surgery on his knee two weeks AFTER signing with the Falcons and then had another procedure in February of this year. He’s simply not the player he used to be and probably never will be again.

  • Mike

    Have you considered how his role in MIN differed from ATL from the standpoint of how dominant MIN was at making teams 1 dimensional? That MIN run D forced a strategic shift to more predictable passing situations and while Ray Edwards was a part of that run D I don’t think that he was any sort of difference maker and could be replaced by an equally as average overall player who could do well. In that regard he was made better by the players around him and while you may be sick to death hearing it there is probably something to it that your model isn’t considering correctly. I enjoy the statistical analysis, but sometimes you have to examine the way you award Schrute bucks and Stanley nickels because of the way a team alters the competitive strategy prism through which they should be viewed.

    • Eddie

      Well Said. Agreed.