We are starting a new summer series to look at who might be the next players to take that next step up. We’ll be taking a look at those players who have been productive to this point in their careers but could be on the verge of busting out and getting more national recognition. This is a breakout candidate for the 2020 season.
On a defense that has so many first round picks there are going to be high expectations. Over the course of the season the defense gelled to become one of the most impressive defenses in recent memory.
One of those first round picks may have had higher expectations than most coming in. Going from Troy Polamalu to anyone is a difficult task and the Steelers tried different options at strong safety. In 2015 they used veteran Will Allen who started 13 games. In 2016, they drafted Sean Davis and he started at the position for two years before moving to free safety. In 2018, they drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round which was surprising to some as many didn’t see him as a first round pick.
To This Point
There has been good production and there has been poor production depending on which stats you judge. He has started 31 of 32 games played over the last two years (2,002 defensive snaps). Despite playing just 70 more snaps in 2019 his tackle numbers increased 35%. Over the last 40 years, only 4 safeties have had more tackles in their age 22 season than Edmunds.
His turnover production is, to put it kindly, low. It’s not a good sign when your teammate and brother Trey has as many interceptions as you and he’s a running back. One interception and zero forced fumbles really stick out. He struggled in coverage last year allowing a 72% completion rate and 4 touchdowns up from 59.5% and 1 TD in 2018.
There is reason for hope because even some of the better players at the position have started off slow. John Lynch didn’t start until year four. Darren Woodson had no interceptions until year three and Ryan Clark had none until year 4. Carnell Lake had 2 interceptions in his first 4 years.
Here are some players who also had similar starts to their career statically speaking.
|First 2 Years||G||GS||Int||PD||FF||FR||TD||Sk||Tackles||TFL||QBHits|
What does all this cherry picking of stats mean for Edmunds? Nothing really. Other than to point out once again that growth is not linear.
It was a year of growth for Edmunds and we have to remember he will still only be 23 this year. There were several players in this year’s draft that were older than Edmunds.
He finished number two on the team in total tackles with 105. That’s more than Polamalu, Clark or Lake ever had in the regular season. Edmunds settled into his roll of the box safety and is a good run defender. He has no fear when it comes to attacking the gaps or taking on blocks to do his role in the defense. He’s a good tackler, aiming low and wrapping up.
Vs the Browns, I love the effort here. He’ll beat the block of Jarvis Landry (80) and get outside of him and then takes on the pulling lineman to help stretch the play to the sideline.
In the passing games his numbers overall weren’t good but there were indications of improvement. He has his struggles the farther he gets from the line of scrimmage and his back pedal gets him on his heals limiting his change of direction. However, when tasked with playing trail man on slot receivers or Man coverage on TE/RB in the short and intermediate levels he was better in coverage.
Here he’s in the near slot guarding Tyler Lockett (16) from a trail Man position. He’s in good position, gets his head around and breaks up the play.
What can happen?
In my opinion the arrow is still pointing up with Edmunds and there are a few areas of improvement that could benefit him and the defense.
Role Play – The success of players correlates to putting them in the right spots so they can do what they do best. Edmunds has found a home playing in the box as the eighth defender in base or similar to a WILL linebacker in nickel. Keeping him near the line of scrimmage and using him in coverages that benefit his skill set helps everybody. After re-watching 5 games from last year he may be the hybrid linebacker the team has been looking for.
Talk to T.J. – T.J. Watt tied for the league lead in forced fumbles in 2018 with 8. Not only does he force the fumble with a punch he wraps with the other arm so the runner doesn’t get away. Edmunds is a form tackler. He gets low and wraps up limiting forced fumble opportunities. With a little coaching he may be able to improve his turnover production.
Vs the Bills, 1 and 10 with 1:54 left in the game down 7. He fills the hole nicely but based on the situation there has to be a punch/swat/rip of some sort to try and get the ball out while making the tackle.
Cross the Line – The Steelers have two players who are very good at the art of the blitz on the roster with Mike Hilton and Vince Williams. Teams have seen these blitzes. Start using Edmunds more to attack on passing plays. According to Pro Football Reference Edmunds blitzed 19 times in 2019. Barron blitzed 39 times. Give him those extra opportunities to use his athleticism and make big plays.
Vs the Browns, this isn’t a blitz but he shows his acceleration to pass Barron on the way to the QB to force the throw away.
- Temper expectations a bit, he’s only 23
- Some very good safeties have had similar starts to their careers
- Big jump in total tackles in 70 fewer snaps
- Better when closer to the line of scrimmage
- Found his role, now it’s time to fine tune it
- Look for ways to improve turnover production and splash plays
Result – I am as guilty of this as anyone but we need to start appreciating Edmunds for what he can do and stop bashing for him for what he hasn’t done. Go back and watch a couple games focusing on him and like me, you might come away more impressed.
With some tweaks in coverage responsibilities, more aggressive tackling and taking advantage of his athleticism to blitz could lead to more opportunities for splash plays to help him fill out the stat sheet. Many interceptions and fumble recoveries are due to two things: the bounce of the ball and being near the play. Edmunds hustles to the ball so the law of averages is on his side to be a part of more turnovers.