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Why Was Falcons WR Bryan Edwards Inactive vs. Seahawks?

Atlanta Falcons receiver Bryan Edwards was a surprise inactive in the team's 27-23 Week 3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith provided the reasons behind the decision.

The Atlanta Falcons entered this season with rookie Drake London slotted atop the depth chart at receiver but little clarity behind him.

Slot receiver Olamide Zaccheaus figured to start, but he's played a complimentary role throughout much of his career. KhaDarel Hodge and Damiere Byrd were largely viewed as rotational or depth pieces. Undrafted rookie Jared Bernhardt made the roster out of camp after a strong preseason but seemed to be low on the totem pole.

All of that left one player: third-year pro Bryan Edwards, whom Atlanta acquired via trade from the Las Vegas Raiders in May. A former third-round pick out of South Carolina, Edwards had 34 receptions for 571 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout second season but reportedly wasn't viewed as a fit by the Raiders' new staff.

In Atlanta, Edwards' 6-3, 212-pound frame seemed to be exactly what head coach Arthur Smith wants from his receivers, and at 23 years old, appeared poised to continue his upward career trajectory.

And yet, through the season's first two games, Edwards caught just one pass for two yards on three targets. In the Falcons' 27-23 win over the Seahawks in Week 3, Edwards was a healthy scratch.

Questions immediately arose. Was Edwards underwhelming? Had the team given up on him? Is the trade (which only cost Atlanta a fifth-round pick) already a lost cause?

According to Smith, it's none of the above.

"It's decisions we make every week," Smith said. "We'll do what we think is best for the game plan and the team. Sometimes it's not necessarily that player did something wrong, it's (that) we feel we've got a good matchup somewhere else or we feel like we need help on special teams. It's a good problem to have when you've got a lot of guys we feel like we can activate or put up or down."

Second-year pro Frank Darby received the elevation from the practice squad to the active roster, relegating Edwards to inactive status. Darby impressed throughout training camp as a gunner on special teams and has done well in practice since being waived in the final round of preseason cuts.

As Smith alluded to, the Falcons seeked additional special teams value against Seattle, and Edwards doesn't provide that. Considering his lack of early-season production and fourth down versatility, Edwards was simply the odd man out, much like running back Tyler Allgeier and outside linebacker DeAngelo Malone were in Week 1.

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However, that's not to say Edwards won't get another chance. The same youth that worked as a positive for his profile over the offseason has been evident thus far, as he's still trying to get acclimated to Smith's offense.

While the numbers haven't been there, Smith still sees a bright future in Edwards and is pleased with some of the things he can offer outside the stat sheet, such as blocking on running plays.

"He'll keep working, he's young in our program," said Smith. "We're not down on Bryan. It'll pay off; it's different. He's learning a new system, and we've got guys doing really good things, subtle things that don't always come up in the passing stats."

Edwards' first three weeks in Atlanta haven't gone according to plan, and he'll be the first to say it. But the tools that caused the Falcons to acquire his services - age, size, ball skills and a breakout second season - are still present in his game.

The Falcons have a formidable offensive trio in London, tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Cordarrelle Patterson. However, for the unit to maximize its upside, Edwards needs to prove he's the player the Falcons thought they were getting.

Ultimately, there's no need to sound the alarm quite yet. Smith still has confidence in Edwards' future, and his strong 2021 campaign provides good evidence as to why.

But as the Falcons attempt to move into a new era as a franchise, all eyes will be focused on the future, not the past. Edwards has a chance to prove he can be a key part of that future this Sunday, when Atlanta hosts the Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft

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