Mario Edwards Jr. hasn't played many football games lately. The Raiders defensive lineman missed 16 straight over two seasons, with neck injury cutting 2015 short and a hip injury giving 2016 an extremely late start.
Edwards has been good when healthy, allowing the Raiders to dream big when pairing him with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin along the defensive front. Player and team hope to see those three playing together in 2017, with Edwards providing interior push while Mark and Irvin rush off the edge.
Edwards is a versatile piece who would primarily play end in the base defense and move inside on passing downs, giving the Raiders an inside threat they lacked last season.
General manager Reggie McKenzie says the 2015 second-round pick is ready to make a major impact this season. He's leaner than before, which should help him use freakish athleticism to make plays up front.
"He's extremely motivated," McKenzie said Thursday in an interview with 95.7-The Game. "He wants to show the league that he can be dominant, not just a solid football player. He wants to be dominant. He's healthy, he's strong and in a good mindset. He's ready to roll, and we're extremely anxious to see him get going this season."
Edwards had 42 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie, when he played several techniques from defensive tackle to stand-up edge rusher. He only managed two tackles in two games last year, when he clearly wasn't himself following a long recovery from a hip injury.
Staying healthy will be key this offseason, so he can make an impact when games count.
"With a healthy Mario we'll be a better defense, no question," McKenzie said in March at the NFL owners meetings. "That's not just in the pass rush. He's a very good run player. He's going to be a good player for us."