Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t mince words when it came to Mario Edwards Jr.
“He’s extremely motivated,” said McKenzie of the defensive lineman in a radio interview. “He wants to show the league he can be dominant, not just a good football player. He wants to be dominant.”
A boisterous claim, no? The player echoed his GM’s words.
“Just ready to do what coach already said,” said Edwards. “You know, to show that I’m ready to be a dominant player and pick up where I left off before I got hurt.”
The pre-injury Edwards showed plays the run and rushes the passer with passion.. Sporting a clean bill of health and free from neck and hip injuries that sapped his availability, it’s up to the Raiders coaching staff to meet the former second-round pick’s desire and provide opportunity. That means moving Edwards all over the defensive line. In order to realize his potential, Edwards needs to line up everywhere.
In anticipation of such, Edwards has been grinding hard with a lower-body regimen in the offseason with one thing in mind: Get the QB.
“Really just trying to get more pass rush, get off the ball and penetrate, things of (that) nature,” Edwards said. “I think I play the run pretty good, but just focusing on the other side with pass rush. With that said, Edwards will see the field often.
“I always think I can come in and contribute and go in and do what coach asks of me. Push the pocket, get pass rush up the middle.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio pinpointed the lack of interior pressure as a must-remedy for a team that had a paltry 25 sacks last year. In his rookie campaign, Edwards was an effective edge at end in standard alignments and disruptive inside at tackle in nickel and obvious pass-rush situations. Offenses needed to account for him.
“You have to account for them. You have to feel them,” Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of edge players. “Mario is fast, he’s twitchy, he plays hard and you have to deal with them when he’s around. You have to know where he is. That’s certainly we expect him to be and have a breakout year.”
The Raiders need to constantly mix up Edwards’ utilization. As a result, it will not only keep offenses guessing, but allow Oakland to deploy its best 11 .
“Situational football is the key, and being situational masters, that’s one thing that we always have to take our level to higher level as coaches so they understand the game even easier,” said assistant head coach-defense John Pagano.