Oakland Raiders Defensive End Mario Edwards Jr. Looks To Deliver Strong 2017 Campaign

Posted May 29, 2017

Headed into 2017, Mario Edwards Jr. is healthy, and ready to contribute to the Silver and Black's defense.

Defensive End Mario Edwards Jr.

Even though he’s entering his third year in the NFL, in many senses, Mario Edwards Jr. is still scratching the surface of what he can do as a football player.

After the Oakland Raiders selected Edwards in the second round (No. 35 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, the powerful defensive end appeared in 14 games as a rookie, finishing the year with a pair of sacks as he really rounded into form over the last quarter of the season.

There were big expectations attached to Edwards heading into 2016; he had another year of experience in defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.’s system, and he looked poised to emerge as a true complementary rusher to pair with All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack.

Then, in the very first game of the preseason, that all changed after Edwards suffered a hip injury against the Arizona Cardinals.

Instead of making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, Edwards was now regulated to rehabbing, appearing in just two regular season games before making his postseason debut against the Houston Texans in January.

Edwards is now forging into his third season healthy, and Head Coach Jack Del Rio is looking forward to watching the continued development of No. 97.

“Because last year was almost a lost year,” said Del Rio. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get a whole lot of Mario on the field. Excited to get him going. His conditioning and the work he’s putting in and the price he’s paying and all of those things. I think the natural development, the maturity of playing that position, I think that we expect him to take a big step forward.”

Del Rio isn’t alone in expecting that Edwards will bounce back in a big way in 2017 either; that seems to be par for the course when the former Florida State Seminole’s name is brought up.

“Just ready to do what coach already said,” Edwards said recently. “You know, to show that I’m ready to be a dominant player and pick up where I left off before I got hurt.”

Another dominant pass rusher would certainly provide Norton another chess piece to play with schematically, and would be a welcome addition for a team that finished the year with just 25 sacks.

Yes, the Silver and Black employed the AP Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack, but the men affectionately coined the “Slash Brothers" – Mack and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin – accounted for north of 70 percent of the team’s sack total, and in a perfect world, more players, like Edwards, would be in the mix.

“I always think I can come in and contribute and go in and do what coach asks of me,” Edwards explained. “Push the pocket, get pass rush up the middle.”

In his two seasons as a Raider, Edwards has seen the team improve each year, delivering a 7-9 campaign in 2015, and then returning to the playoffs in 2016. However, as nice as it was to get back to the postseason for the first time in a dozen years, Edwards knows that the defense in particular still has a lot in front of them they to want to accomplish.

“I just think it’s getting back into it, we were close getting to the playoffs and things like that,” Edwards said. “We were a couple games away from making it to the big one. I believe the defense and the team as a whole is just hungry to get back to that point.”