Ravens add bulk to run defense in second round

OWINGS MILLS – Within the Baltimore Ravens' seven-hour lull before drafting stout Oregon State defensive tackle Dwan Edwards in the second round, their playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans was often recalled.<br><br> During a 20-17 loss in the AFC wild-card game, the Ravens' front seven was battered by an imposing running game as Eddie George and Chris Brown rambled for 165 yards. <br>

That exposure of an undersized defensive line and a bevy of elite receivers flying off draft boards early Saturday were noted by the Ravens as major factors behind selecting the 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive lineman with the 51st overall pick.

Instead of immediately addressing the lowest-ranked passing game in the league last season, Baltimore added more ammunition for a defense that ranked third overall and sixth against the run last season. Washington State wide receiver Devard Darling was added in the third round with the 82nd overall pick after trading the 88th pick and a fifth-round choice (155th) to the Minnesota Vikings.

Edwards, 22, will initially act as a rotation player who could eventually challenge starter Marques Douglas at right defensive end. 

"This is a clean defensive lineman," Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage said of Edwards, who was picked one spot after swift LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson was grabbed by the New Orleans Saints. "He's a good kid who works his butt off. He's a leader. People here aren't going to know much about him, but he's solid.

"He's never going to get in trouble off the field. He's a good person who's going to be a contributor. Our defensive line was hanging on for dear life last year when Chris Brown and Eddie George were putting it to us in the playoffs."

Edwards' selection followed another prime second-round target -- hard-hitting Iowa safety Bob Sanders -- going to the Indianapolis Colts seven picks earlier. Plus, Alabama offensive guard Justin Smiley, Washington defensive lineman Tank Johnson and Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff went off the board five, four picks and two picks before Baltimore's choice, respectively.

Trade discussions took place, but nothing percolated, including an opportunity to move down while on the clock before adding Edwards: a second-team all Pacific-10 Conference selection with 159 career tackles, 12 ½ sacks, 30 tackles for losses and three fumble recoveries.

"Man, it is beyond words," Edwards said in a telephone interview from his Oregon home. "It's been a long day, but I'm glad that I finally have a place. I'm excited to be able to play with some high-caliber, high-energy players."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged interest in Henderson, but said he was satisfied to obtain Edwards at that point. Newsome kept emphasizing the Titans' game as a signal of a size deficiency. 

"A lot of that was we basically have an undersized defensive line," Newsome said. "One of the things that we wanted to do this off-season was upgrade the defensive line. Dwan Edwards is going to be a very productive part of our team."

Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta cited Edwards' consistency of performance and personality.

DeCosta tape-recorded his interview with Edwards at the scouting combine and noted similar character traits to Ravens starting left defensive end Tony Weaver, a second-round pick two years ago.

"He is tenacious," DeCosta said of Edwards. "He is our kind of guy that we have been able to build a defense around."

Edwards doesn't have upper-tier speed with a time of 5.1 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He does have some pass-rush skills and employs a spin move on occasion.

And he did display toughness, leg drive and an ability to use his stocky frame to full advantage.

"We've been waiting all day long to pick, and when got down to the 51st selection, we feel like he's a real solid player," Savage said. "To get a clean defensive lineman at this point in the draft, we feel real good about that."

Last season, Edwards played right defensive tackle and finished with 51 tackles, three sacks and recovery two fumbles. 

Two seasons ago, he added close to 15 pounds, bulking up steadily from his redshirt season in 1999. He arrived at Oregon State as a 250-pound all-state fullback and linebacker.

"I'm a guy that's going to lay it on the line every day," Edwards said. "I think I can do a lot of things for this team. I will have the attitude that I want to start. I am going to work my butt off and see what happens."

In his final collegiate game, Edwards sacked New Mexico quarterback Casey Kelly twice in the Las Vegas bowl and finished with six tackles.
"He's our kind of player," Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "He plays with a great deal of passion. The fact that this young man is similar to what we have, but gives us a bigger body, is tremendous. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we're undersized."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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