Dirty work may allow Edwards to clean up

Rookie defensive lineman could make an impact in run situations for Ravens

Pro Football

May 01, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Dwan Edwards describes himself as a draft junkie, so it took him no time at all to spout off what the scouting reports said about his play.

"Steady," said Edwards, the Ravens' second-round pick (No. 51 overall) out of Oregon State. "Not flashy. Consistent. A hard worker who gets it done."

From Internet Web sites, to magazines, to draft guru Mel Kiper's book, all essentially echoed that theme.

Missing is the all-important "sky is the limit" label, which is probably the reason his selection as the Ravens' first pick last weekend (the team was without a first-round selection) was dismissed as insignificant league-wide.

That sits just fine with the Ravens, who got their first look at the defensive lineman in practice yesterday as part of the team's two-day rookie minicamp.

"I think that we utilize our players as good as any in the league," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "I would agree that by what I've seen, he's a very solid type of player. But I think when we identify what his strengths are, he might be able to go above that. Now it takes time because we have to identify him completely as a player."

Even if Edwards does not exceed being tortoise-like, he still would have given the Ravens what they expected.

Higher-risk, higher-reward players may have been on the board, but the Ravens believe in their slow-and-steady philosophy.

"So many people chase the flash," Nolan said. "They want the pretty girl, and they ignore the baggage. So they jump on that guy before they take a guy like this, who is not the prettiest thing necessarily from the standpoint that he's not an upfield, sleek-looking, flash kind of a guy. He's a steady, tough, hard-nosed, dirty-work type of guy. I'll be anxious to see how he moves around and how we can fit him in."

For the near future, coaches want Edwards to be the top defensive line substitute, someone the team can especially call upon in run-oriented situations.

At 6 feet 3, 315 pounds, Edwards is bigger than any starter on the Ravens' defensive line. If he can clog up space this year, he might find himself a starter heading into next season.

If that happens, then who knows? "I'm a solid player right now, but there are so many ways I know I can get better," Edwards said. "With coaching and all the technique work I'm going to get playing with great players like Ray Lewis, I can only get better. I would never say, `I'll probably just be this [good].' I'm going to work hard and let everything else take care of itself."

To source the lack of buzz surrounding Edwards, look no further than his numbers. His 12 1/2 career sacks are 11 1/2 fewer than Terrell Suggs had in his senior season at Arizona State.

To judge Edwards' effectiveness, look beyond his numbers.

"The most impressive thing I saw was just his effort, his tempo to the football," said Ravens area scout Chad Alexander, who studies players from the Pac-10.

"The thing that is rare about him that I noticed after watching film - most defensive linemen are part of a rotation. This guy hardly ever got a breather, and he was 100 percent every time. His effort to the ball was great. He was double-teamed a lot, and he still found a way to be productive."

With time-tested linemen Tony Weaver and Kelly Gregg, Edwards likely will not draw the attention of offensive linemen. And if all the pre-draft reports about him are right, he may turn out to be a player that never does.

"I didn't get a lot of recognition coming out of college," Edwards said. "But I feel like I'm a great player, and I'm going to help the Ravens' organization.

"I can't say I'm real flashy. I'm just a guy that works hard to get the job done."

NOTES: University of Cincinnati cornerback Zach Norton left practice early with a hand injury. ... With yesterday being the first all rookie practice under Ravens coach Brian Billick, things were not as chaotic as they could have been. "I was impressed with the group as a whole," Billick said. "They listened, they hustled. But they've got to learn how we practice." The Ravens had 40 players at the practice.

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