Through five games, Edwards has made that decision look like a smart one; he joins nickel corner Cedric Griffin and safety Greg Blue as 2006 draft picks making consistent contributions.
Edwards is playing a bigger-than-expected role because of the loss of Erasmus James to a season-ending knee injury; the rookie is third on the team with two sacks and has shown a consistent ability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
He has seen time both as a pass rusher in nickel situations and as part of the Vikings' regular rotation of their defensive linemen. "The coaches have great confidence in me, so I'll just continue to improve on that," Edwards said.
Coming out of Purdue, Edwards was believed to have the talent to be a first-round pick, but his attitude was questioned. He had been a Big Ten all-freshman choice by The Sporting News in 2003 and an all-Big Ten honorable mention pick in 2004, but he lost his starting job as a junior and became disgruntled. That raised questions about his work ethic.
The Vikings, though, did their homework on Edwards and came away convinced he could contribute. "He's a 265-pound guy that can get on your edge with speed, and then he has the ability to come inside," coach Brad Childress said. "He's quick, good hands, good eyes, and then he'll turn and run to the football."
Kenechi Udeze, the Vikings' starting left end, also is impressed with Edwards' contribution.
"The thing with Ray is he's a great pass rusher," Udeze said. "Especially being at such a young age. He knows what to do and what not to do, and he uses it to his strength. After (James) went out, there was no question he was going to step up and play. He has been ready since training camp. It's unfortunate that (James) got hurt, but it's fortunate that he's stepping up and playing big right now."
Childress made it clear in his remarks that Jackson will have to learn to play through pain at some point. "Somewhere in his career, he is going to get nicked, and he's going to have to push and guys are going to trust in the fact that he's getting back there. This is, unfortunately, a hard learning experience, but something he has to go through."