With all the hype surrounding the "new and improved" Cowboys' defense, it is ever so easy to forget about the guys that made substancial contributions to this team last season.
Without question, you can put former Florida State star Mario Edwards in that category.
"It was something new coming from Florida State where you're used to winning big and playing in all the big games," Edwards said in an interview early last season.
Little did he know that his first two years in Dallas would result him in fewer total victories then his last year alone in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "It was new but I guess that's part of being on an NFL team. Nothing's guaranteed and while you win some, sometimes you lose some too."
While winning may not have been a substancial part of the equation over the course of his first two seasons as a professional, improving certainly has.
Edwards was a mainstay at cornerback last season, after spending most of his rookie year playing exclusively on special teams for the Cowboys. He registered 42 tackles and also brought in an interception against the New York Giants that he returned 71 yards for a touchdown.
While those statistics may not be mind blowing, he has shown steady growth on the football field over the course of his first two seasons as a pro.
Edwards has all of the physical tools that you'd like to see in an NFL cornerback. He has good height at 6-1, decent size at 190 lbs, solid speed, and good natural instincts on the football field.
Ideally, you'd like to see him reduce the total number of big plays that he gave up last year, and with a little more experience under his belt, that shouldn't be too much of a reach.
However, he'll need to do that and more this season if he's going keep his starting position for 16 games, and that may not necessarily be an easy task.
On February 8th, Edwards had to have surgery to clean up tissue damage sustained in his right shoulder as a result of a mid-season collision.
Fortunately, he has made a quick recovery as returned to the practice fields in time for the third QB school back in early June.
"I've was excited to get back out there," said Edwards. "Guys have been out here looking good, and the competition is going to only make us better in the long run."
Using the the word "competition" is certainly an understatement.
Dallas added former pro-bowl cornerback Bryant Westbrook this offseason, and other guys like Pat Dennis have looked suprisingly strong during Edward's absence.
The Cowboys also drafted another high level corner in Ohio State's Derek Ross- although he has yet to report to Valley Ranch due his continuing enrollment at Ohio State.
Last season, Edwards won the starting job simply because there was literally no one else there.
Dwayne Goodrich missed all of last year with an injury, and Kareem Larrimore was let go 5 games into the season.
With all the new guys on board this season, Mario Edwards has his work cut out for him.
Nevertheless, he remains the favorite to start opposite of Bryant Westbrook at cornerback come September 8th in Houston. "We've got some guys back there now that can make some plays, and that's only going to make us better," said Edwards.
He's right, but the only question is, will he be the one that benefits from all that new talent?
We'll find out the answer to that question this season.
Mario Edwards: the Forgotten Man?
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