Gus Edwards Deserves Credit as Well Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

Game Changers Gus Edwards Deserves Credit as Well

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Game Changers Week 12

There are plays in every football game that impacts who wins and who loses. They can occur on offense, defense or special teams. Sometimes it’s a play everyone sees, like a long touchdown run or pass, a sack, or turnover. Other times it’s a play that goes unnoticed. It could be a key block on offense or a defender who doesn’t make the tackle himself but executes his assignment, allowing a teammate to make the play.

If you’ve been reading this series or follow me on Twitter, you know I REALLY like Lamar Jackson. I could write about him every week (see last week’s piece here), and while he’s certainly an exciting player, I feel like I haven’t given RB Gus Edwards the attention he deserves. I don’t think there’s any question that Jackson provides a tactical advantage in the run game. He’s a dangerous runner who defenses must account for and who can give the offense a numerical upper-hand.

But Edwards has certainly done his part. He’s been decisive, consistently runs through contact, and is probably more elusive for a man his size (6’1” 229 lbs) than some realize.

Edwards 19-yard Gain

Q2, 2:25, 1st & 10 at BLT 44

Jackson is in the gun with Edwards offset to his left. This is a zone read concept. The Ravens leave DE Arden Key (99) unblocked and Jackson ‘reads’ him to make his decision to pull the ball (keep it himself) or give the ball to Edwards.

At the snap, Key maintains width to play the QB run so Jackson gives the ball to Edwards. With Key out of the play, that leaves the Ravens with 4 blockers for the Raiders 4 defenders (remember that numerical upper-hand I mentioned).

As Edwards reaches the line of scrimmage, DT Clinton McDonald (97) is able to get his hat (helmet) and hips in the A gap. He’s in position to disengage from LG Alex Lewis to make a play on Edwards but Gus is able to lower his pad level by dipping his shoulder and runs through the arm tackle attempt from McDonald.

Raiders’ strong safety Karl Joseph (42) has an open field tackle opportunity on Edwards as he reaches level 2. Joseph targets Edwards’ near hip but Gus has the contact balance and leg drive to absorb the hit to his thigh and pull his leg through the wrap.

Edwards 9-yard Gain

Q3, 11:10, 1st & 10 at Oak 38

Edwards is aligned about 1.5 yards behind Jackson, who’s in the pistol. As Edwards takes the hand-off, you can see DT P.J. Hall (92) beat C Matt Skura across his face and penetrate into the play-side A gap. Skura fights to stay engaged with Hall but has to let him go or be called for holding. Hall has a momentary opportunity to get a hand on Edwards, but Gus is able to plant his inside foot, get his hips parallel to the sideline and accelerate away from Hall.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist (31) fills the alley and has a 1-on-1 tackle opportunity in the open field on Edwards. As Gus approaches Gilchrist, he changes his stride length, taking shorter, choppier steps, then uses a 3-step cut. Some of the coaching points I’ve heard on how to execute a 3-step cut include:

  1. Don’t get too a wide a base when planting the outside foot.
  2. Must gain ground with the 2nd step (after planting the outside foot).
  3. After the cut, get north & south.

Edwards executes these techniques efficiently and makes Gilchrist miss in the open field. Pretty elusive for a 229-lb man.

Edwards 9-yard Gain

Q4, 15:00, 1st & 10 at Oak 27

Before we take a look at this play, let’s go back to a play in Q3.

Q3, 11:48, 3rd & 2 at Oak 42

This was a Guard-Tackle (GT) counter run. LG Lewis and LT Ronnie Stanley both pull left-to-right, while Skura, RG Marshal Yanda and RT Orlando Brown Jr. down block. Edwards is untouched and gains almost 4 yards when SS Joseph does this:

There are a lot of cliches in football but I bet you’ve heard this one: low man wins. I actually heard Kansas Chiefs OL coach Andy Heck put it more succinctly: low hips win. Look at the level of both players’ hips at the point of contact and it’s no surprise that Joseph was able to blow up a man who outweighs him by nearly 20 lbs.

Now let’s jump back to Q4. The Ravens run a strong side lead play (back on backer). The OL and FB Patrick Ricard do a nice job ‘washing down’ the Raiders defenders front-side and create a crease back-side between Brown Jr. and TE Nick Boyle. DE Shilique Calhoun (91) is able to get inside leverage on Boyle, squeezing the crease, but Edwards lowers his pads and runs through Calhoun’s arm tackle attempt. This sets up another 1-on-1 matchup with SS Joseph.

Maybe it’s because Edwards appeared to be trying to maintain his balance after contacting Calhoun or maybe he had time to make the adjustment, but he drops his pads and gets low enough to use his shoulder to run through contact from Joseph. Edwards then uses his hand to try and stay on his feet, gaining another 2-4 yards before ultimately losing his balance and going down.

Gus the Bus

Fans have questioned whether Edwards’ back-to-back 100-yard rushing games are a product of the threat Lamar Jackson poses as a runner himself. Others have suggested that if QB Joe Flacco is healthy and regains his starting role, Edwards will be less effective. Maybe there’s some validity to both arguments but I say give credit where credit is due.

I’m not denying that Edwards has faced some favorable box counts because of Jackson, but he’s also racked up a ton of yards after contact as well as made defenders miss in 1-on-1 situations. Whether it’s Jackson or Flacco at QB on Sunday versus the Falcons, I can’t wait to see what “Gus the Bus” does at his next stop.

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