Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles doesn’t converse in superlatives fairly often. The Bucs soft-spoken assistant coach just isn’t susceptible to exaggeration both. So when he calls security Mike Edwards the protection’s “most cerebral participant”, it will get your consideration.
“Mike is a really instinctive participant,” Bowles mentioned on Thursday. “He’s our most cerebral participant. He has a really feel for zones and a really feel for routes. He can see what one route is and decide what the opposite one goes to be most likely higher than anybody we now have beneath. Once we go beneath protection. So he can see the sector very properly.”
Edwards’ tenure in Tampa Bay has been fascinating. Regardless of enjoying lower than 200 common season snaps final yr, Edwards intercepted two passes and broke up 5 others. He had one other interception taken away due to a flag away from the play. Within the playoffs, Edwards broke up a number of extra passes and picked off Drew Brees’ final profession move to seal a victory. Two weeks later within the Tremendous Bowl, Edwards’ move deflection landed in Antoine Winfield’s arms for the game-sealing turnover.
However the Bucs have already got two excellent safeties in Winfield and Jordan Whitehead. How do they get Edwards on the sector extra typically? As a result of accidents to each safeties, Edwards performed 532 snaps this season, virtually 60 p.c of the Bucs’ defensive reps. However over 60 p.c of Edwards’ snaps have come nearer to the road of scrimmage, not again at free security. Accidents to Sean Murphy-Bunting have created a task for Edwards to be extra versatile this season too.
“He simply has a terrific knack of studying quarterbacks’ eyes and form of understanding the place this factor goes,” mentioned Bucs head coach Arians. “He both intercepts it or he’s going to catch each deflection, that’s for certain. As a result of he’s at all times going to be heading in that course. He’s a really heady participant and it helps him get to the spot the place he must be.”
That was true once more on Sunday, as Edwards picked off his fourth move of the season. This time he learn the eyes of Jalen Hurts, racing throughout the sector to stop a landing when cornerback Jamel Dean fell down. As an alternative of a 17-7 halftime lead, the Bucs took a shutout into the break.
“Man, that’s simply what he does,” Winfield mentioned. “Mike can discover that ball. Each time we’re on the market, he can get 10 performs and he may have two picks. It’s loopy. He’s a ballhawk. He works laborious and he undoubtedly [deserves] the whole lot that he has earned.”
Paradoxically, Edwards worst sport of the season got here in Week 3 in opposition to the Rams. He blew a protection on a 75-yard landing, an excessive rarity for him, and gave up 96 yards within the sport. Edwards actually hasn’t had a foul sport since his rookie season, so his efficiency was shocking. It was additionally a significant anomaly this season, because the third-year security has been very regular.
Murphy-Bunting may be again for the divisional playoffs, which may transfer Edwards to the bench. However what number of snaps are the Bucs coaches prepared to play with their finest playmaker on the sideline? Don’t you need Edwards on the sector in opposition to a risk-taker like Stafford? The Kentucky product may not be the very best man cowl possibility, however neither is Murphy-Bunting. And Edwards is much from a legal responsibility.
With the banged-up Bucs offense needing each splash play the protection may give them, it will be loopy to not have Edwards on the market typically on Sunday. We’ll see if Bowles feels the identical manner.