Oakland's Edwards Ready to Build on Debut, Contribute More to Defense

Raiders' young defensive end should give team even more firepower as it heads toward playoffs after Sunday's regular-season finale vs. Broncos

Mario Edwards Jr. didn’t have a single tackle in his season debut against the Colts last week, but that’s OK.

The Raiders are just happy to have Edwards back on the defensive line, and Edwards is overjoyed to be back on the field after missing the first 14 games of 2016.

He played just 19 snaps at defensive end in the win over the Colts, but is likely to be on the field more often this Sunday when the Raiders play the Broncos in Denver.

A victory Sunday against the Broncos would clinch the AFC West championship and a first-round bye in the playoffs. A loss by the Chiefs Sunday also would give the Raiders the division title.

So, Sunday’s game is big for a number of reasons. The Raiders also will get a chance to see what Matt McGloin can do in taking over for Derek Carr at quarterback heading into the postseason.

But Edwards’ chance to play Sunday also is important. He could be a big boost for a defense that’s continued to improve through the season. His presence in the lineup in the playoffs is a nice addition.

“It was really good to get him back,” head coach Jack Del Rio told the Bay Area News Group this week. “We wanted to cap (his snaps), 20, 30, somewhere in there. It was a solid first outing and I know he had a big smile on his face. He was just happy to be back in the action and to have a chance to play again.”

Edwards had a strong rookie year in 2015 after being a second-round pick, and his presence as a pass rusher could help a team that has a dynamic duo of edge rushers in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. In 14 games in 2015, he was in on 42 tackles, had two sacks, three forced fumbles and two batted passes.

Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that Edwards “has the heart of a lion” for the way he’s worked to come back from a neck injury (as a rookie) and hip injury (this summer).

Franklin told Tafur that Edwards could be a big help in the playoffs.

“He is explosive, he’s quick, he’s sudden, he’s strong as a bull,” Franklin said. “It’s so good to have him back out there. … There is always rust, but he’ll dust the rust off a little more this week and then we’ll polish it off.”

Said Edwards: “The defense has been doing great, doing their thing all year, and I was just happy to be a part of it and contribute.”

The 12-3 Raiders and 8-7 Broncos are scheduled to play Sunday at 1:25 p.m.

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