Here comes Mario Edwards Jr.
The Raiders’ rookie defensive lineman, a second-round pick out of Florida State, was mostly a bit player during the team’s first four games of 2015, averaging just under 20 snaps per game.
But in Game 5 against the Denver Broncos this past Sunday, Edwards was in the defensive lineup for 50 of 58 snaps and made an impact. He had half a sack, hurried Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on another play and had six tackles.
Often, Edwards got tremendous push against the Broncos line, disrupting plays and creating opportunities for his teammates.
And now that defensive end Justin Tuck is injured – some reports indicate he may be lost for the season – Edwards figures to get plenty of playing time and on-the-job experience.
Against the Broncos, Edwards played both defensive end in 4-3 alignments and inside when the Raiders went to a 3-4. He said he’s eager to play both roles.
“Of course me being versatile enough to go up and down the line is always good, and I’m comfortable being in there, it’s just things happen a little quicker so I had to react to them,” he said this week.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said he thought Edwards “played really well” against Denver, and indicated he’ll continue to get more opportunities to contribute.
With Tuck possibly suffering a season-ending injury – to either his shoulder or pectoral muscle – Edwards and Benson Mayowa are likely to take on larger roles. And, at 2-3, the Raiders have a bye this Sunday that will allow defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to get both more practice time.
Ever since Edwards joined the team in workouts after the draft, the coaching staff has been impressed with him. The Raiders thought Edwards had potential, but didn’t realize how quick he is.
“Edwards is doing some fantastic things,” Norton said before the start of the season. “The things we saw on the film when we scouted him, he’s a lot twitchier, he’s fast. He moves pretty good.”
The Broncos saw that on Sunday. The Raiders hope to see it again when they take on the Chargers in San Diego on Oct. 25.