Mike Edwards has a lot in front of him. He’s never had a more direct line to become a starting safety for the Bucs than he does now after Jordan Whitehead left in free agency. But with new additions in Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan, nothing will be handed to him.

Despite leading the Bucs with three interceptions – and adding another in the playoffs – last season, Edwards was still only deployed in a limited role. Do the Bucs trust him enough to give him the reins this year? Safeties coach Nick Rapone answered that question on Tuesday.

Bucs S Mike Edwards

Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: USA Today

“I trust Mike more now,” Rapone said. “If you look at it, Mike’s had five interceptions in the last two years, probably playing a fourth of the reps a starter would get. I trust Mike more now. Each safety has some certain areas he has to improve on.”

And what would those areas of improvement be for Edwards? The main one is actually something that has been a knock on him since his college days at Kentucky.

“With Michael, it’s going to consistently be being able to make that open-field tackle,” Rapone said. “He improved last year, he made more tackles in the open field than he had the year earlier. Ball-wise, Mike can play the football, so Mike just has to keep maturing and it’s going to be a great challenge for him.”

Playmaking Abilities

Saying that Edwards can play the football might even be an understatement. He arguably has the best hands on the defense and out of the four turnovers he created last year, two were pick-sixes. They both happened in the Bucs’ Week 2 win over the Falcons and came just minutes apart in the fourth quarter.

Edwards is a playmaker. He will be given the first opportunity to win the role, according to Rapone. But there will be good competition in the room.

“He’ll start off at the strong safety position and we’ll see what Neal does,” Rapone said. “And that’s what Todd [Bowles] wanted to do. Todd wanted to create so we have some competition there at safety. Now [Antoine] Winfield and Edwards, you’re looking at Ryan and Neal, which makes a healthy group and they go out and they compete.”

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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1 month ago

Man, I like the Ryan signing a lot if his main purpose is to come in and compete at nickel corner with SMB. I actively dislike the move to get him if he’s going to be pegged as a safety, a position he’s never shown any remote ability to play well.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
1 month ago

Mike Edwards is not a strong safety. Free or Slot CB is about all you should expect from ME. Bucs brought in K. Neal to fill the Jordan Whitehead void and with the addition of Logan Ryan Mike Edwards may continue to struggle getting playing time. You can talk about leading the team with int all you want but ME got smoked several times at free safety last year peaking in the backfield. ME has to be more disciplined at keeping his assignments and stop being manipulated by offenses who are targeting him.

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
1 month ago

The Saints have no problem starting undersized players at strong safety so why should the Bucs? If Edwards can play the run then he should start at strong. If not then L. Ryan is the starter at strong safety. And then you have K. Neal so there are options.
Personally I would like to see L. Ryan lock down nickel and let Neal/Edward platoon at strong to keep each other fresh.