In the off-season, the Detroit Lions made it a point to re-sign defensive end Kalimba Edwards. So much, in fact, that they outbid the Cleveland Browns and handed the former second-round pick -- already considered an under-performer -- a five-year, $20 million deal with $8 million in guaranteed money.
Nine weeks into the regular season, the Lions are finally becoming impatient with their investment. Edwards has registered only one sack, and has otherwise been a non-factor as a situational pass-rusher. But with the loss of sack leader James Hall for the remainder of the season, Edwards will likely be thrust into the role as a full-time defensive end -- along with the expectations as the top performer he has been paid to become.
"Oh, I think so," responded head coach Rod Marinelli on Friday when asked if it was time for Edwards to step up. But Marinelli also voiced optimism.
"(And) I think that's going to happen, too. I feel really good about him. I call him close, but no cigars. He's been draping off that guy a few times, so we need him to play big and I believe he's going to do that."
With Hall on the sideline, Edwards' practice reptitions have grown considerably. All indictions, at least according to the coaching staff, is that any progress made in Allen Park will soon be evident on the field.
Marinelli also noted that the more time Edwards' spends at one position, the more consistent he can become. Before, Edwards would float between right and left end position. Beginning on Sunday against San Francisco, he'll be used exclusively at defensive end.
"I think we have a chance to leave him alone on just one side a little bit more right now and play the right end," said Marinelli. "I think it's a pretty natural deal for him. So, hopefully it will be the consistency for him. The footwork and his steps and his lean and how his game timed - just on one side, not on both sides. I think that's going to help him and his time and I think he'll do well."
Edwards will be required to pressure inexperienced 49ers' quarterback Alex Smith into mistakes. But it will also have to come against an offensive line that Marinelli considers above average.
"I think it's really a good offensive line and 21 (Frank Gore) is a special player, I think," he said. "He is really a downhill guy that can really come in and the quarterback's an athletic guy and great with the ball and (has a) great arm and they move the pocket all over the place.
"They give the ball to 21 (Frank Gore) that way. So, we've really got to be on our force angles, our field angles, our leverage and our ability to sprint to the football."
Notes: Lions' linebacker Teddy Lehman, who played several snaps for the first time against Atlanta on Sunday, will likely see an increase in playing time against San Francisco.
"I think so," said Marinelli. "Again, he was sore. I think each week he's going to help us a little bit more and more and more on snaps. Again, that really impacts our special teams and that depth. We should be really quick and really fresh out there."
Dan Campbell has been a solid producer for the Lions this season. But the energetic tight end's play isn't relegated to just pass catching. Campbell has proven to be a solid blocker in both run and pass situations, and provided a solid wall for receiver Roy Williams during last Sunday's 60-yard touchdown run.
"The guy has the energy for this game, he gets out and plays," said Marinelli. "He has the tremendous energy to want to be really good and that's what we're looking for. We want to keep finding guys that just love football." Added Marinelli, "He's a special player now I think. He is just driven with passion of this game. This guy is tough - quietly tough - on this team as any guy on this football team. I admire that about him. He's played with whatever, he doesn't care. He just lines up and he is truly one of the best blockers in this league. Point of attack, you know, Kevin (Jones) is running and we got a good line, but that point of attack drive block at the tight end position - he is really good. I mean he is good.
"I always used to call him a decoy in the passing game and now he's becoming a guy that can catch the ball. He's just tougher than nails, he's just tough and he's physical and he works everyday; good, tough, veteran football player."