Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles does not speak in superlatives very often. The Bucs soft-spoken assistant coach is not prone to exaggeration either. So when he calls safety Mike Edwards the defense’s “most cerebral player”, it gets your attention.

“Mike is a very instinctive player,” Bowles said on Thursday. “He’s our most cerebral player. He has a feel for zones and a feel for routes. He can see what one route is and determine what the other one is going to be probably better than anyone we have underneath. When we go underneath coverage. So he can see the field very well.”

Edwards’ tenure in Tampa Bay has been fascinating. Despite playing less than 200 regular season snaps last year, Edwards intercepted two passes and broke up five others. He had another interception taken away because of a flag away from the play. In the playoffs, Edwards broke up several more passes and picked off Drew Brees’ last career pass to seal a victory. Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Edwards’ pass deflection landed in Antoine Winfield’s arms for the game-sealing turnover.

Bucs Ss Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr.

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead and FS Antoine Winfield Jr. – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But the Bucs already have two outstanding safeties in Winfield and Jordan Whitehead. How do they get Edwards on the field more often? Due to injuries to both safeties, Edwards played 532 snaps this season, almost 60 percent of the Bucs’ defensive reps. But over 60 percent of Edwards’ snaps have come closer to the line of scrimmage, not back at free safety. Injuries to Sean Murphy-Bunting have created a role for Edwards to be more versatile this season too.

“He just has a great knack of reading quarterbacks’ eyes and kind of knowing where this thing is going,” said Bucs head coach Arians. “He either intercepts it or he’s going to catch every deflection, that’s for sure. Because he’s always going to be heading in that direction. He’s a very heady player and it helps him get to the spot where he needs to be.”

That was true again on Sunday, as Edwards picked off his fourth pass of the season. This time he read the eyes of Jalen Hurts, racing across the field to prevent a touchdown when cornerback Jamel Dean fell down. Instead of a 17-7 halftime lead, the Bucs took a shutout into the break.

“Man, that’s just what he does,” Winfield said. “Mike can find that ball. Every time we are out there, he can get 10 plays and he will have two picks. It’s crazy. He’s a ballhawk. He works hard and he definitely [deserves] everything that he has earned.”

Bucs S Mike Edwards

Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Ironically, Edwards worst game of the season came in Week 3 against the Rams. He blew a coverage on a 75-yard touchdown, an extreme rarity for him, and gave up 96 yards in the game. Edwards really hasn’t had a bad game since his rookie season, so his performance was surprising. It was also a major anomaly this season, as the third-year safety has been very steady.

Murphy-Bunting might be back for the divisional playoffs, which could move Edwards to the bench. But how many snaps are the Bucs coaches willing to play with their best playmaker on the sideline? Don’t you want Edwards on the field against a risk-taker like Stafford? The Kentucky product might not be the best man cover option, but neither is Murphy-Bunting. And Edwards is far from a liability.

With the banged-up Bucs offense needing every splash play the defense can give them, it would be crazy to not have Edwards out there often on Sunday. We’ll see if Bowles feels the same way.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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JSW
JSW
4 months ago

I’ll take Mike Edwards on the field over SMB EVERY day of the week and twice on Sundays. I really don’t care if they traded away SMB this offseason and find another corner. I’m so tire of watching him chase plays all afternoon long – giving up catch after catch, after catch. It’s like nails on a chalkboard!!! I’ll take Edwards despite being a step slower – because his “cerebral” play makes up for it!

surferdudes
surferdudes
4 months ago

He’s our most cerebral player. Except when it comes time to trying to pass fake vax cards.

Spitfire
Spitfire
4 months ago

They need to make SMB the official backup. Edwards needs to be on the field as much as possible. You can just see how he reads the ball well. The only problem with the fake Vax card is that he didn’t find a better fake.

cobraboy
cobraboy
Reply to  Spitfire
4 months ago

I dunno, surf.
Not taking the EGT and faking a card sounds cerebral to me.