Though defensive end Dwan Edwards has never played in the same division as the New England Patriots, much like the majority of his Bills' teammates, he is all too familiar with the perennial playoff club. Last season Edwards, and his Baltimore Ravens teammates, handed New England a rare home playoff defeat at Gillette Stadium 33-14.
Edwards along with the rest of Baltimore's defense had Tom Brady confused as they sent several overload and center blitzes at the Patriots quarterback early. Baltimore then showed blitz and dropped into soft coverage at times. Brady would throw a pair of early interceptions and lost a fumble on a sack, which allowed the Ravens to build a 24-0 first quarter lead and coast to victory.
The third leading tackler for the Ravens, Edwards had seven tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit in the victory. It's that kind of defensive play he and his current teammates are striving for on Buffalo's defense, but he knows that kind of consistency takes time.
Edwards was one of the few bright spots the Bills had in their loss to the Packers last week. Defensive ends rarely pile up impressive stats in a 3-4 formation because they are primarily responsible for freeing up the linebackers to get pressure on the quarterback. But Edwards had three of the four pressures on Aaron Rodgers last Sunday at Lambeau Field for the Bills.
Edwards wasn't exactly enamored with his performance.
"I don't know how much success I had," said Edwards. "I played decent but I'd like to play a lot better. It's all about time and getting used to my teammates and the scheme George Edwards (defensive coordinator) wants to put in."
Having played for one of the best defenses in the league for the past five years, Edwards brings a level of experience that is valuable to a team adjusting to a new defense. His experience allows coaches to be flexible with him and line him up in different spots along the line, forcing opposing offenses to adjust.
"I play a little bit everywhere," he said. "It gives teams different looks so they can't get a bead on where I'm at and stuff like that, but for the most part, I am going to play where the coaches tell me to play and do the best I can and try to become a better player."
Head coach Chan Gailey recognizes Edwards' value not only in terms of his versatility, but his on field leadership as the majority of the defensive unit adapts to the scheme.
"The good thing about him is he can line up in a couple of different spots for us," said Gailey. "He can line up at the nickel-end, he can line up in the 3-4 end and he gives you 100-percent effort all of the time. He's where he's supposed to be. He's a good, solid veteran football player for our football team, in the leadership aspect. He's a great player on top of that, but the leadership aspect that he gives us has been extremely good."
Having been a young player in a 3-4 scheme himself, Edwards sees potential in some of Buffalo's young defenders up front like Alex Carrington and Torell Troup.
"They are doing well," said Edwards. "They might not be getting all the reps or play in the games but they are continuing to grow and are getting better."
He hopes the entire defense can get better and adjust to the new responsibilities on that side of the ball sooner rather than later.
"I just want to see us get better," he said. "There are a lot of new people and a lot of these guys will continue to grow and we will get better as we spend more time together and we will learn to play off each other."
Sunday will be a tough test for the Buffalo's defense, which is still early in their transition. But Edwards is confident that in time their unit can eventually reach the level of success he enjoyed in Baltimore's scheme.
Regardless of how far along Buffalo's defensive unit may or may not be, the goal is the same when facing New England. Edwards and the rest of the defensive unit will need to get pressure on Brady if the Bills are going to put themselves in a position to make this divisional matchup a rivalry again.