To say Kalimba Edwards' 2006 season was anything other than a disappointment wouldn't be truthful.
After signing a now fabeled five-year, $20 million contract just prior to last season, Edwards responded with a paltry three sacks -- despite playing in every game. His poor play didn't escape the attention of a disenchanted coaching staff, which attempted line-up changes and the occasional benching, but never did manage to light the appropriate fire.
In 2007, the message has been sent: produce ... or else.
The Lions signed pass-rush specialist Dewayne White away from Tampa Bay during the off-season, and drafted promising defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis in the second-round. Edwards mantra ever since has been get-to-the-quarterback-at-all-costs.
"Oh yeah," responded Marinelli during Thursday's opening day of training camp. "That's good that he repeated that. I've said that about 19,000 times."
Although the Lions have a new defensive coordinator in Joe Barry, the defense will be relatively the same -- with the exception of an advanced focus on intensity, which some accused Edwards of lacking last season. Edwards will again line up at right end, opposite White.
The Lions remain confident in Edwards' 6-5, well-proportioned frame in addition to excellent speed. A former second-round pick in 2002, Edwards has shown flashes of brilliance, and was quick off the ball during drills on Thursday. Marinelli said Edwards' growth into both the starting defensive end role and highly-demanding contract begins with the basics.
"Fundamentals," said Marinelli. "What you do is show him what he can do, what he's failing to do, and maybe it's a detail when you make a rip move. Is your hand not high enough? How to finish the move; how to run a game correctly; how to have a certain focus and preparation on how to defeat an offensive tackle. It's about skill development. Talent only takes you so far in this league, because the guy you're playing against, he's talented. So it's the guys with the best fundamentals, who have a plan, and can play one snap at a time."
Marinelli also believed that a more cohesive defense in 2007 -- along with a more productive offense -- could allow Edwards to produce a double-digit sack season. The last time a Lion reached double-digit sacks was James Hall in 2004.
The most total sacks Edwards has ever registered in a season was seven in 2005.
"Yes, if we stop the run," said Marinelli. "I think the thing that is exciting is I think our offense has got capabilities of putting some points on the board, and once you get a lead, if we can get ourselves in position to get some leads, then you can turn the front loose. You can really turn these guys in our great calls and start creating havoc. And the good thing about having chances to be a good sack team is opportunities.
"If you're behind and playing the run every down, you're not going to get opportunities."