T.J Edwards vs. Adrian Martinez
The best player on the Wisconsin defense will need to have another one of his impressive performances this Saturday. Edwards has the ability to disrupt opposing quarterbacks in a variety of ways. He has incredible instincts in defending the run, essentially always picking the right hole and meeting the ball carrier. Do not underestimate his ability to make an impact in coverage, Edwards can cover ground quickly for his size and is not afraid of making plays with his hands.
Edwards was critical of his play against BYU, stating “I tried to see too much and wasn’t focused on what I had to do with my assignment.” This mindset is understandable given all the youth starting on the defense. There will continue to be a learning curve between Edwards and the younger players. Edwards showed more trust in his teammates in the game against Iowa, this allowed him to fly around and make more plays all over the field. When Edwards is authorized to play freely within Leonhard’s defensive scheme, he is one of the best defensive players in the country.
The final drive against Iowa exemplifies what Edwards means to the Wisconsin defense. On second down, he rushed Nate Stanley outside of the pocket and forced him to throw an errant pass despite having an open receiver. And then on third down, Edwards was exactly where he needed to be. The Iowa receiver made a mistake, but Edward’s discipline and nose for the ball were on full display on that third down interception at the end of the game. The Iowa game would have played out in an entirely different way if the Badgers were not enjoying the services of T. J. Edwards.
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Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is a dynamic playmaker who can make all kinds of plays by both running and throwing the football. For a true freshman, Martinez has a good feel for the game. He has shown the ability to make every type of throw as well as improvising with his legs when the pocket collapses.
Despite showing poise as a freshman, Martinez has been susceptible to making mistakes. He has thrown three interceptions and at times tries to do too much when extending plays that have resulted in damaging sacks. He has the tendency to be a little reckless, but Martinez is an explosive player who can make an impact play every time he touches the ball.
T.J. Edwards will be tasked with following Martinez on every snap Saturday night. Whether it is watching Martinez’s eyes in the passing game or chasing Martinez when he scrambles, Edwards will need to know where the Nebraska quarterback is at all times. I expect Edwards to play a “spy” role for much of the game. This will allow Coach Leonhard to have his best player watching Martinez and putting Edwards in the best position to make plays.
Edwards, along with the rest of the Wisconsin defense, will look to contain Martinez within the pocket and make him beat them with his arm. If Martinez struggles, it is a safe bet that Edwards was the main reason why. This will be an intriguing matchup between two great athletes.