Buffalo has the potential to have one of the best defenses in the National Football League this season — and Dwan Edwards is looking forward to helping the Bills achieve big things.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle grew up in Columbus and is heading into his ninth NFL season — his third with Buffalo.
Edwards spent last weekend in Billings putting on his free football camp for nearly 300 appreciative youngsters. Before that, the 31-year-old took part in the Bills’ recent organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps, which he said went well.
“It's been a huge difference from last year, being locked out and not being able to have the offseason program,” he said. “I've been there working out every day with my teammates, and that's huge just to build some camaraderie between us and get some competition going.
“From a defensive line standpoint, seeing the talent that we have, there's going to be a lot of competition. In the end, that's going to make us all better."
Edwards, who started in 13 games last year — mostly at end — for the 6-10 Bills, is currently listed as a backup at tackle in Buffalo’s three-deep, defensive line rotation, which has been fortified over the offseason with some headline-making, free-agent signings.
The Bills, in fact, are so well equipped on the line, it seems, that Edwards, who is scheduled to make around $4 million this season, is now the subject of Internet speculation as to whether or not he'll be out of a job, given the team's surplus of capable linemen and his big contract.
“It's funny, and as a professional you can't worry about that stuff,” he said of all the talk surrounding his job security. “You just take it day by day, practice by practice, and try to be the best player you can be that day. Everything else will take care of itself.
“You can't get too caught up in what people are saying. Those people are obviously on the outside. You've got to keep it in-house and worry about the stuff you can control,” he said. “And I guess, one of the advantages of being a veteran, I just know how stuff goes. Eventually the cream rises to the top. That's all I know."
With training camp looming at the end of the month, another major issue for the bloggers and columnists is how well Edwards will fit as a tackle in new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt’s four-man defensive front, which is designed to ramp up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks and running backs behind the line of scrimmage.
Edwards, who had 52 total tackles last season and 2.5 sacks, is healthy, mobile and is probably best known as a run stuffer. He said he is working to be a more effective pass rusher, but doesn’t view his return to tackle and going from a 3-4 look to a 4-3 to be a problem for him personally.
"I think that I'll do great,” he said. “From just a scheme standpoint, like everywhere I've been and most teams in the NFL, they're going to play a version of 4-3, they're going to play a version of 3-4.
“I've played it my whole life, even in college we played 4-3 and even last year, after we had a few injuries, we went right to a 4-3 and played that a majority of the time. I don't think that will be necessarily an issue at all. Having my same defensive line coach (Giff Smith), and being familiar with Wannstedt (the team’s linebackers coach last season), I don't think it will be much of a transition."
Buffalo has been busy acquiring players since last season, with the biggest addition on defense being end Mario Williams, a former No. 1 draft pick in the NFL.
“With the pieces we have, it's going to be fun,” Edwards said. “Having a guy like Mario Williams out there next to you, he's obviously going to draw a lot of attention and force a quarterback to do stuff. It's going to make us all better.
“I'm looking forward to being around guys that really make everyone better."
He also said the changes on defense being implemented by Wannstedt will be "a huge positive and allow a lot of defensive linemen to make a lot of plays for us."
In addition to talent, Edwards said he will be counting on his experience, versatility and dedication to see him through training camp and beyond.
“I've been playing football for a long time,” he said. “I know the game. I know how to make adjustments and what offenses are trying to do to you.”
Edwards, who has 228 career tackles, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and has even scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery, also said his football smarts help him connect with his coaches.
“That (football IQ) is something that keeps a lot of guys (in the NFL) and playing for a long time,” he noted.
Edwards, who was drafted in the second round out of Oregon State by the Baltimore Ravens, has been a part of the NFL since 2004 and has appeared in 83 games. He is in the midst of a four-year contract with Buffalo that is potentially worth $18 million.
“It really is a dream come true, honestly, to think you've had the opportunity to play,” he said of his veteran status in the NFL. “All the guys you see come and go. It's amazing the guys that come in, and don't stay very long. It's been a blessing."
And, Internet chatter aside, Edwards appears as excited as ever about 2012.
This season, beginning Sept. 9 at the New York Jets, could potentially be one of the best for the Bills in quite a while, he said.
“I definitely do think that with our defense, and if we don't go out there and turn the ball over, we'll be in every single game,” Edwards said. “That will give us a tremendous opportunity to win. You’ve got to feel with the additions we have, and things we'll be able to do, we're going to have a chance to make some noise."