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Oakland Raiders Defensive End Mario Edwards Jr Shines In Matchup With Cardinals

Posted Aug 31, 2015

Rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr had himself a night Sunday as the Raiders took on the Arizona Cardinals.

Mario Edwards Jr admitted to having some rookie jitters the first time he put on an NFL uniform just over two weeks ago, but that wasn’t the case Sunday night at O.co Coliseum.

His newfound confidence and comfort certainly paid dividends for the rookie defensive end, as he tallied 2 total sacks and was a constant disruptive force around the quartet of Cardinals quarterbacks during the Raiders third preseason game.

“I think my first game I was just nervous,” Edwards said postgame. “Even though I played on big stages at Florida State it was just realizing, ‘woah, I’m in the NFL,’ so I was a little shaky and nervous the first game. Once I started playing, I realized that I could do it, otherwise they wouldn’t have drafted me if they didn’t see anything.”

The Raiders and General Manager Reggie McKenzie saw enough in Williams to invest a high draft selection in him, No. 35 overall to be exact, and envisioned him as another piece in a young, defensive nucleus that would be able to get to the quarterback.

Entering the preseason, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the defensive staff knew what they had in Khalil Mack – a player on the upswing who would be able to wreak havoc on the defensive side of the football, however, a clear, No. 2 pass rushing option behind Mack was still undetermined.

After his performance Sunday night Edwards is hopeful that he can fill that role and take advantage of Mack’s imminent double teams.

“That dude [Edwards] is special,” Mack said. “We were talking about the tackles and he went out and executed. He stepped up big on that one sack late in the fourth [quarter].”

That being said, Mack believes the entirety of the defensive line has the ability to rush the quarterback.

“We have a lot of guys,” Mack said. “We have Mario. We have Benson [Mayowa]. We have Denico [Autry] and [Justin] Tuck. We’re going to try to bring everything to the quarterback.”

He then smiled and added, “We’re going to have a party back in the backfield.”

Edwards definitely received his invitation to the party, as his two sacks came against Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals starting left tackle, and first-round selection D.J. Humphries, respectively.

“It was great being able to go against the ones and get a sack, and then going up against a first rounder and get a sack as well,” Edwards said. “They’re both great talents and today was just a great day.”

Last week Head Coach Del Rio praised Edwards’ practice habits, and the rookie’s good week of work paid off Sunday.

“My mindset and just really realizing how you’re supposed to play certain things and how they want you to play them,” Edwards said when talking about what contributed to his improved practice week.

Edwards continued, “You may have in your mind how you think you should play it, but once they tell you how it’s supposed to be played, it’s just a mindset from there.“

Edwards believes he has made great strides since the preseason began, and while he’s not setting any specific goals leading up to Week One, he just wants to continue improving.

“I just want to improve each week,” Edwards said. “Just continue to have great practices and it’ll pay off on game day. I just feel like as long as I continue to go hard, and just play with a motor. and just pin my hair back and go, everything will take care of itself.”