Ravens impressed with blue-collar rookie

OWINGS MILLS – Dwan Edwards grew up in a rural Montana town known more for its mining and farming success stories than its football players.<br><br> In Columbus, Montana (population: 1,748), the future Baltimore Ravens' rookie defensive tackle emerged as an all state fullback, linebacker and basketball player.<br><br> Edwards was voted class president three times. He was even selected to the National Honor Society with a 3.7 grade point average.

"Everybody knew me, so I couldn't get away with anything," said Edwards, the Ravens' top draft pick who will likely start at left defensive end Saturday against the Detroit Lions because of starter Tony Weaver's high ankle sprain. "It's a small town, so word travels fast if you do something wrong. I was pretty well-behaved."

In his brief NFL sojourn, Edwards, 23, has stuck by his hard-working, unassuming approach and made a positive impression on the coaching staff.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the second-round draft pick from Oregon State played 42 snaps and registered three tackles. That's more playing time than defensive line coach Rex Ryan can recall ever allotting to a first-year player.

"He has given us great effort and lived up to everything we stand for over the years," said Ryan, noting that Edwards will likely see half that number of repetitions during the regular season as part of the defensive line rotation. "We expected no less. When we went to draft him, one of the qualities we really liked about him is we knew he would be a worker.

"He comes to the practice field with a purpose. No question, the guys trust him because they know he works hard. He may not quite be there yet, but he's working hard to get there."

Essentially, Edwards has arrived as advertised by the personnel department. He's a stout, well-conditioned run-stopper with an outstanding motor and rudimentary pass-rushing skills.

The rookie also appears quite grounded as the father of an infant son and a 4-year old daughter with his longtime girlfriend.

"I'm working for more than just myself," Edwards said. "I'm working to support my family."

And Edwards said he has taken to life in the big city, purchasing a home near the team training complex.

"I really didn't like living in a small town," Edwards said. "Here, there's always something for me to do."

At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, Edwards is the Ravens largest defensive end. At Oregon State, he recorded 159 career tackles and 12 ½ sacks.

Against the Eagles, Edwards competed against massive Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jon Runyan a few times and held his own for the most part.

"I made some mistakes, but it's stuff I can learn from and hopefully correct," Edwards said. "So far, I've done pretty well, but I'm harder on myself than pretty much anyone else is. There's a lot I can improve."

Edwards was a 3.1 student in college, graduating with a degree in business administration. He has maintained a meticulous approach on the football field.

"I will always think about the few plays and dwell on what could have been better," Edwards said. "I want to play the perfect game."

Edwards has experimented with a variety of pass-rushing moves since joining the Ravens: spin moves, swim moves, stutter-steps followed by a rip move.

Yet, as Ryan noted, the team didn't draft a finesse player.

Edwards' best upfield move right now is brutal in its simplicity: bulling offensive tackles backward with his arms and legs in an attempt to change the line of scrimmage.
"A bull rush sets up everything else, so when you've got that type of power you don't want to get too fancy," Ryan said. "Dwan's fastball has got to be the bull rush."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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