Edwards was a folk hero when he played quarterback for Appalachian State. Twice he led the Mountaineers to the FCS national championship and twice he received the Walter Payton Award as the FCS’s best player.

Edwards was a competitor and an athlete, and the Carolina Panthers traded their 2011 second-round pick to New England so they could draft him in the third round of 2010.

The pick they traded turned out to be the first of the second round. Many of you blame Edwards for this.

The Patriots invested the pick on Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback out of Virginia. He spent most of his two seasons injured, and when healthy he made little impact.

Edwards, 25, made no impact his first two seasons. Converted to receiver, he didn’t catch a pass. Last season he caught five for 121 yards.

If it was tough to get in a game last season, it ought to be tougher in 2013. The Panthers, who lost Louis Murphy, added returner/receiver Ted Ginn Jr. in March and receiver Domenik Hixon in April.

“Just bringing in more talent,” Edwards says Thursday about Ginn and Hixon. “We’ve signed receivers every year since I’ve been here so this is nothing new. You just have to come in and work hard to improve on the year before. Nothing’s given to you.”

A team typically keeps six receivers. Seven were on the opening-day roster last season. Spots are assured for Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ginn and Hixon. Competing for the remaining two or three are Edwards, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams.

Edwards again could be odd man in.

“He’s just improved so much,” says Carolina receivers coach Ricky Proehl.

Proehl, a former Carolina receiver, likes Edwards enough that he stops in a heavy rain, without an umbrella, to talk about him.

“He knows how to run routes and get out of his cut,” says Proehl. “But more importantly he knows how to read a defense and where the holes are, what we’re trying to accomplish offensively, what’s the concept of the route. He’s always been able to catch the ball and he’s a great athlete. And now he’s figuring out how to play the position, and you see it. He’s had a great camp.”

The rain beating down on his black cap, Proehl adds: “I think the biggest difference is he’s getting opportunities. He’s learned from his mistakes because he’s getting the opportunity to make them.”

Most receivers toss the ball back to the huddle after a catch. On Thursday Edwards fires the ball long and low.

“I guess that just comes naturally from playing that position my whole life,” he says. “It’s just my throwing motion.”


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