In the passing game, Edge brings a different, yet equally valuable skill set to the table. Anyone who has read any articles about James, listened to any interviews given by James' teammates, watched any games on television that James is playing in, or read any edition of the King James Bible in the last 18 months knows that everyone thinks James is an exceptional pass-blocking running back.
I've watched running backs who have no business pass-blocking. I've watched backs that are good. I've watched backs that are great. And I've watched Edgerrin James. And James beats them all by 30 lengths and 15 oversized jockeys. He excels at blitz pick-ups, even to the weak side of the quarterback. He excels at helping out an overmatched lineman. He even excels at maintaining his block just long enough to break off of it and act as a safety valve. And, he is at his most lethal when he realizes he has no one to block, casually exits the backfield, raises his hand as a safety valve, and burns the defense for a 15 yard completion.
All of this leads to three possible scenarios in the passing game…
- Defenses blitz the shell-shocked Warner like mad in the hopes that he hears footsteps and does something stupid with the ball. In this case, Edge stays in the backfield (along with possibly a tight end to block) and Warner has sufficient time to find the open receiver for a big gain, given that there are fewer available defenders past the line of scrimmage.
- Defenses blitz only one extra defender. This occupies Edge, but leaves more defenders to cover the Cardinals' dangerous receiving corps. The defense hopes that their line will be able to overpower the offensive line and get to Warner before it's too late.
- Rush four and take your chances with Edge either beating you with a draw play, screen pass, or short pass play that breaks wide open because he makes the first guy miss.
While this is a romanticized version of how things will actually unfold, it certainly beats the standard way of defending the Cardinals from last year: ignore the run game, pressure the quarterback (not always Warner) up the middle, and watch as blitzers and linemen scamper past a flustered and confused J.J. Arrington on their way to mauling the poor, unsuspecting schmuck that's trying to throw the ball.
Given the fact that the Cardinals were helpless to prevent the defense from employing this foolproof game plan every Sunday and still lead the league in passing last season, things look bright for this season. With a back that brings the threat of effective running, effective receiving, and effective pass blocking to the team, defenses should be unable to key on the fragile Warner. That equals more time in the pocket and more options on offense, which only helps the ball club.
After all, with the talent the Cardinals have at receiver, a quadriplegic with a decent set of lungs and good decision making skills could pass for 4,000 yards in this offense. Provided he has 3-4 seconds in the pocket.