Edwards pursuing and productive

Defensive end Ray Edwards has put his big talk from 2008 behind him and turned into one of the Vikings' more productive defensive players early in the season. See what he and other Vikings had to say about his contributions this year.

In 2008, Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards was known more for his words off the field than his actions on the field. In the excitement of the team acquiring Jared Allen, Edwards rushed to predictions quicker than he did to the quarterback.

Edwards not only said the defensive line's pass rush would be improved, he predicted he would break Michael Strahan's single-season NFL sack record. As most expected, he didn't even come close, registering five sacks, the same amount he had the previous season.

This year, Edwards isn't making bold predictions, but he also said he doesn't regret last year's comments.

"No, because we're all focused to be the best out here. Jared said it best: I was just bold enough to say it," Edwards said. "But just going out there and working, I was letting things get in my mind that shouldn't get in my mind and focusing on what I shouldn't be focusing on. I'm focused now and I'm ready to just have fun and go out there and play."

Edwards mentioned his diverted focus last year several times during an interview Monday. He didn't give specifics on what he was thinking about, but he was determined that this year would be different.

"I was worried about the things I shouldn't be worrying about and it kind of made me lose focus a little bit. I just took the offseason to focus on every game and get my mind right," he said. "… If you're working to be the best, you start focusing on other things that other guys are doing instead of just focusing on yourself."

Vikings coach Brad Childress sees a player that is standing up against the run from the left defensive end position that doesn't get the benefit of rushing the passer from the blind side on right-handed quarterbacks.

"I always call that side a base end position, so he has to stand up against the run. I saw him make a bunch of chase plays. I don't know if you guys noticed, but he turns and runs to the football, makes a share of hustle plays as well being good at the point of attack in the run game as well as being able to generate pressure on that passer," Childress said. "He's a guy that usually has a good offseason with his body and takes care of it. And then he's a guy that plays the game hard. And then he has the stamina to be able to stay in there for all those plays."

Edwards has bought into the mentality that has made the Vikings defense the top-ranked run-stuffing unit in the league. Defenders flock to the ball so if the first person misses, the ball carrier is quickly met by another player and then by a swarm of defenders.

You might say pursuing is Edwards' pursuit.

"You just want to show that you're not just going to be a guy that's going to be a big block and stop the run – you're going to be athletic and make plays down the field. Some guys miss tackles. Guys on the other side of the ball are definitely great athletes and they can make guys miss, so it's our job to be there … and not let the extra yards be there," Edwards said.

Now, a year after Edwards' big talk, he has turned in two big-play games. He has become a productive tackling leader on the team. He had eight tackles against a Detroit Lions team intent on establishing the run, the same number he had against a Browns team equally eager to try to run against the Vikings. Only middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has more tackles, and even he has only one more than Edwards.

Edwrads also has been one of the more productive pass rushers. While Jared Allen still gets more attention from the offensive line, and running backs and tight ends looking to help keep the 2007 sacks champ out of the backfield, Edwards is taking advantage of the opportunities he is getting opposite Allen.

"Ray has been doing a great job," Allen said. "He has been getting one-on-ones these last couple of games and getting a lot of pressure and stuff like that. And that's how it's supposed to work. If they're going to focus on one of us, someone else has got to take advantage of it. When you've got that going on, they're going to come. You're always going to have your opportunities.

"It helps when you can be up (on the scoreboard) in the end, and that forces them into passing situations. Detroit elected to go max (protection) most of the time before the end (of the game). It's going to work well. If they're going to focus on me, Ticket (Kevin Williams) is going to be free. Or if they're going to focus on Ticket and me, Ray will be free. We have the players to make them pay whatever they decide to do."

Edwards agreed.

"We just try to play off each other as best we can, study film and see who are they sliding to – who are they trying to protect the most not to make big plays on our D-line?" he said. "It seems like they are trying to slow both me and Jared down now, putting a tight end to my side and chipping to his side. We're just trying to find ways to beat the rush either way they're trying to set it up. We just try to work off each other and make things happen that way."

Edwards says he isn't worried about stats, but so far he is proving to be one of the leaders in a couple of defensive categories. His fast start is beginning to get him some notice.

"It wasn't for me to get off to a fast start," he said of his early-season focus. "I just wanted to go out there and have fun and don't let the worries of the game worry me and slow me down."

Consider him relaxed and fast to the ball.

NOTES

  • Allen said he didn't get a chance to talk to Detroit offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus during the game. Allen felt Cherilus had a dirty block at the knees against him during last year's game in Detroit. It was a block that left Allen with a sprained knee ligament. "I did my talking on the field and with my pads," Allen said.

  • After two weeks of play, the Vikings have the 27th-ranked offense, second running the ball and 32nd passing it. They have the fourth-ranked defense, 15th against the rush and fifth against the pass.

  • The Vikings are tied for second in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-four. Green Bay leads the league at plus-five.


  • Viking Update Top Stories