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Sports

Dwan song
Cast aside by Bills, Edwards a force in Carolina
 
Published Thursday, December 27, 2012 8:16 am
by Herbert L. White

Dwan Edwards has found new life as a pass-rushing defensive tackle.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards has been an unexpected force as a pass rusher, registering six sacks through last week’s 17-6 win against Oakland. Edwards was claimed off waivers from Buffalo at the end of the preseason.


Cut by Buffalo a week before the season opener, Edwards has become a force in the middle for the Carolina Panthers with six sacks – more than his previous seven NFL seasons combined.


One reason is Carolina’s 4-3 defensive alignment, which allows the tackle to play more aggressively as opposed to the 3-4, where he lined up on the ball and faced a double-team on nearly every play.


“By far, production-wise, this is my best season,” he said. “I played on a 3-4 team my whole career, taking up blocks, letting other people make plays. It’s fun to go out there and get after it and play fast and putting me together with great players make things a lot easier for me.”


Edwards, who was drafted by Baltimore in 2004, spent five seasons with the Ravens, then signed with Buffalo in 2010, where he recorded 3.5 sacks over two seasons. He’s flourished with the Panthers, adding an unexpected pass rush in addition to run-stopping duties.


Edwards has a career-high 51 tackles going into Sunday’s finale against New Orleans and had the only sack in Carolina’s 17-3 win against Oakland when he dropped Matt Leinart.


“I missed the last two weeks, so I wanted to come back and have a big game and help my team and here we go,” he said.


Edwards’ efforts have gotten plenty of notice. Defensive end Charles Johnson, who has 10.5 sacks, said Edwards’ ability to pressure quarterbacks makes it possible for him and fellow defensive end Greg Hardy (11 sacks) to work more efficiently.


“Dwan just came in and started from the rip, just penetrating and getting after the quarterback,” Johnson said.  “We haven’t seen that in a while from the (defensive) tackle position.”


The results have been mutually beneficial, Edwards insists. With Hardy and Johnson rushing off the edge, quarterbacks step up to avoid the pressure, but have to contend with Edwards in the middle.


“I just want to come in and help the team any way I can,” Edwards said.


“I’ve been around a long time and these guys make it easy. I’ve got great players on the defensive line with me, great coaches and put that together with some hard work and you’re starting to see some of those results.”


“He’s been doing a good job and coming in off a (3-4) technique and penetrating, it’s been helping the D-linemen a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s a credit to the whole defensive line how he’s been playing and how me and Hardy have been playing.”


Although the Panthers’ season is finished after Sunday, Edwards is encouraged by the defense’s growth over the second half of the season. Despite losing five starters to injury, Carolina is playing with more confidence.


“It makes a little frustrating knowing we weren’t playing as well (early), but all you can do is keep getting better every week,” he said. “We had a few slip-ups but defensively I feel we’ve gotten better and better each week.”

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