Mario Edwards Jr Provides Bright Spot Along Raiders Defensive Line

Lost in Sunday's 30-14 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings at O.co Coliseum, was the performance of rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr.

In a game that wasn't busting at the seams with positives, the Florida State-product provided one, filling up the defensive stat sheet with his team-leading 11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 2 quarterback hits.

"I was very confident in the game plan this week and very confident in what the coaches had put in, and I knew it," said Edwards postgame. "I was just playing, I wasn't thinking."

Edwards' effort against the Vikings proved to the best of his young career, as he was a disruptive force all afternoon, showing off the versatility that General Manager Reggie McKenzie saw when he decided to select him in the 2nd round (No. 35 overall) of this year's NFL Draft.

"I just think he's becoming everything that the front office and the coaches thought he could be," defensive tackle Dan Williams said. "Every day Mario is just trying to get better. I definitely appreciate it, especially playing alongside him, but it's good to see him grow each week and the more he can do the more he's helping us."

And Edwards' growth on the field the past month can be directly credited to his work off of it, as the rookie has made a conscious effort to put his best foot forward at practice and in the film room.

"I've been trying to go harder in practice and really just pay attention to what my job is and try to excel at that," Edwards said.

Coming out of Florida State, Edwards flashed the type of raw ability on tape that made him an attractive pick, but halfway through his rookie campaign, it seems as though he's figuring out what it takes to be successful at the next level both on and off the gridiron.

And it's something that hasn't escaped the watchful eye of Williams, who believes that in Edwards' situation, it's just been a case of working out the kinks that come with being a rookie.

"Some guys get it quick – Coop [Amari Cooper] looks like he's a 10-year veteran, and Mario's just getting used to the game, getting used to the speed," Williams said. "I just think his film study has improved a lot, and the way he's approaching practice each week. He's asking questions, 'Coach, what happens when this happens?' He's definitely become a student of the game."

As the rookie lineman becomes a student of the game, he also has the benefit of having a Super Bowl- winning teacher – fellow lineman Justin Tuck.

Although Tuck was placed on Injured Reserve October 20th, he has remained with the team and provided another set of eyes and ears for the Raiders defense, and it's one that Williams believes has paid immense dividends for Edwards in particular.

"A guy with as much experience as Tuck's had – he's a guy with two Super Bowls; it's great," Williams said. "He's a guy who knows what it takes to get that trophy.  That's the whole reason why we play this game. It definitely helps a lot, and he's seen a lot in this league. He's won and he's also been through losses to help guys with the type of mindset you should have. It definitely helps a lot to have a guy like him."

Yes, the Silver and Black stumbled at home, dropping Sunday's Week 10 contest to the Minnesota Vikings, but at the very least Edwards provided something to be excited about, as another one of McKenzie's picks from the 2015 draft appears to be rounding into form.

"I'm starting to get comfortable," Edwards said. "It's becoming fun to me and I'm starting to understand what's being asked of me. I like what they have me doing."

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