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Mario Edwards Jr Top 10 plays of rookie season shows immense potential for Raiders

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A look back at rookie Mario Edwards Jr and some of his impressive plays in 2015.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In the past 2 years, Reggie McKenzie has really put his stamp on this team and moved from a novice GM who may or may not have what it takes to THE Raiders' GM and for many fans "Our Guy". It's (relatively) easy to nail the first round picks. Drafting in the top-5, you're SUPPOSED to get franchise players and so drafting Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were "no brainers."

Fair enough, though we Raiders' fans of any tenure, having seen any number of first round busts, should be wary of such statements.

What cemented Reggie's status were his later round picks and how substantially those players are contributing to the team.

Specifically, the 2nd round picks have been absolutely fantastic and arguably have been as critical (or moreso) to the team's progress as the first rounders! Derek Carr looks like the QB of the future and would likely be a top-5 pick (if not #1 overall) in a re-draft.

In 2015, the 2nd round gem was Mario Edwards Jr.

  • 6'3", 294 lbs
  • 33 1/4" arms
  • 10 7/8" hands
  • 4.84s 40
  • 32 bench reps
  • 32.5" vertical
  • 120" broad (5th behind Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Trey Flowers, Obum Gwacham, Preston Smith)
  • 7.44s 3 cone
  • 4.55 20 yard short shuttle

Detractors spoke of him as a Low-effort player, an unproductive but physically talented player, and one who only got into sub-300 lb shape for the combine. A project player who would have to switch positions. In other words, it sounds like an Al Davis-type draft pick, a physical freak of a player who may or may not be an actual football player.

Early reactions of fans were mixed but generally "head scratching." With bigger name players like Eric Kendricks, Denzel Perryman, Maxx Williams, and even Randy Gregory still on the board, there was certainly a bit of disappointment. Not only was Mario Edwards unexpected, but his was an unfamiliar name to many. A "reach", perhaps.

But this was no Bruce Campbell or Johnnie Morant type pick.

It would take him a little bit of time to transition into the pro game and his role in the Raiders' defense. Some of that was likely made more difficult because the entire defense was still learning Ken Norton's scheme. As Mario started to feel more comfortable and to understand his duties, his physical skills came to the fore and he started to do some amazing things.

He went from a rotational End who was being knocked around to being a disruptive force on the opposite side of Mack. Then when Aldon Smith was suspended, the big DE moved farther outside and stood up to become the OLB. By the end of the season, Mario Edwards was not just a good player, but a vital part of the Raiders' defense and a key to the future. He was to be a major weapon to crush the interior or attack the outside and give Khalil Mack the much needed help.

When Mario suffered the neck injury in Week 15, it was a tremendous blow and fans everywhere said a collective prayer for him to be well. Mario Edwards became Scary Good in a short time and has the potential to become just as Disruptive and Dominant in both the run and pass game as Khalil Mack. He really looks that good. In a couple of years, fans of other teams are going to take notice and wonder where the heck this guy came from.

2015 Stats : 14G, 10 GS, 2 PD, 1 Forced Fumble, 2.5 Sacks, 33 tackles

Here's a look at Mario's Top 10 plays of 2015.

#10 - The Neck Injury

Week 15 v Green Bay : 2-7-GB 19 (14:19) (No Huddle, Shotgun) E.Lacy left tackle to GB 21 for 2 yards (M.Edwards; B.Heeney).

A totally innocuous play from the Week 15 game. On the 2nd play of the game, Mario tackles Eddie Lacy and suffers some kind of neck injury. He stays in for the next play and then when he came out after 3rd down, he was attended to by the sideline medical staff and would not see the field again in 2015.

#9 - Backside Discipline and Mobility v WR

Week 12 v Tennesee : 1-10-OAK 32 (11:10) K.Wright left end to OAK 36 for -4 yards (M.Edwards).

Mario playing standup ROLB. As the play goes away from him, Mario engages the crossing TE and sets the backside edge. When the reverse comes, Mario is in perfect position. Denico Autry force the play outside and Mario is able to make the tackle for loss. Penalty on the Titans for holding, also.

#8 - Mobile in the open field v RB

Week 14 @DEN : 1-10-OAK 14 (1:12) B.Osweiler pass short left to R.Hillman to OAK 19 for -5 yards (M.Edwards). FUMBLES (M.Edwards), and recovers at OAK 19

Mario standup ROLB.

On the snap, Mario drops into coverge and has flat responsibility. Osweiler's wing pass sets up Hillman 1-on-1 with Mario in the open field; that's a potential mismatch for Denver (it's also the kind of play that earlier in the year was left uncovered and would go for a TD, but that's another post entirely).

Mario understands that his help is to the inside and overplays the sideline; with his long reach, he pokes at the ball on Hillman's cutback and forces the fumble. Hillman recovers, but ends up with a 5 yard loss.

#7 - Quick

Week 8 v NYJ : 3-1-OAK 21 (8:02) C.Ivory up the middle to OAK 22 for -1 yards (M.Edwards).

Mario lined up down inside as a 3 tech.

On the snap, he beats LT inside and makes the tackle of Chris Ivory for the loss.

Bonus : Patented Ray Ray Stinger Splash.

#6 - Closing speed

Week 10 v MIN : 3-9-OAK 34 (5:30) T.Bridgewater sacked at OAK 40 for -6 yards (M.Edwards).

Mario lined up inside a downlineman with Aldon Smith standing up outside.

On the snap, they run a TE stunt, but the Vikings OL pick it up and Mario is caught up in the wash. On the opposite side, Khalil Mack breaks free and flushes Bridgewater. Teddy takes to the sideline but from out of nowhere comes #97 and then check out how quickly Mario closes the last 2-3 yards.

#5 - Explosive Pass Rush

Preseason Week 3 v ARI : 3-10-OAK 28 (12:50) C.Palmer sacked at OAK 35 for -7 yards (M.Edwards).

Mario Edwards' first professional sack came in preseason against LT Jared Veldheer and QB Carson Palmer.

Here Mario shows explosive power and a quick inside move to absolutely destroy the former Raiders' LT and get quickly to the former Raiders' QB.

Bonus : Khalil Mack completes the sandwich.

#4 - Stunt Man

Week 10 v MIN : 1-10-OAK 37 (:23) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete deep right to K.Rudolph [M.Edwards].

Lined up as a DT inside with Denico Autry on the opposite side.

This is about as beautiful an X-stunt as you'd like to see. Mario explodes and attack the LG's outside shoulder; as the LG and C turn to protect against him, Autry crosses in front. Mario hits the brakes and then loops across; he makes a tight loop and explodes so hard that the Viking's RG can't react.

Mario has a clean line right at Teddy, but the QB is able to escape just enough to throw the ball away. If Aldon Smith (LOLB) would have set the contain instead of coming underneath, this could have been a sack.

Bonus : Another crazy Khalil Mack play on the right side.

#3 - Explosive Pass Rush

Week 14 v DEN : 3-5-DEN 25 (8:52) B.Osweiler sacked at DEN 15 for -10 yards (K.Mack).

Closing down at the end of the game and the Broncos have a critical 3rd down.

The Raiders' defense brings a ferocious 4 with Mack, Mayowa, Mario, and Denico. Mack deservedly gets the sack by destroying the RT once again, but Mario's play on this is amazing. Mario powers the LG and drives him backwards; most OL can take a bump and get knocked back, but will set their feet and re-anchor.

Mario shows an ability here to lift the blockers' weight off the ground so he can't re-set. This is the proverbial "Walking the man backwards." This crushes the pocket from the inside and gives Osweiler nowhere to go when Mack comes plowing thru.

#2 - Powerful v the Run Game

Week 4 v CHI : 2-2-OAK 45 (13:09) M.Forte right guard to OAK 45 for no gain (M.Edwards).

The Bears try to block Mario 1-on-1 with TE Martellus Bennett.

Mario takes the initial hit, gets himself lower than the TE, and then just says, "Get off of me" and throw Bennett backwards. Once he sheds Bennett, he grabs the RB and takes him to the ground for no gain.

Time after time, we've seen what happens when offenses try to block Khalil Mack with a TE. Now we're seeing Mario do the same thing.

#1 - Even More Powerful v the Run Game

Week 11 v DET : 1-10-DET 30 (7:22) T.Riddick right tackle to DET 33 for 3 yards (M.Edwards).

Mario takes on a chip-block by the LT and then a wham block by the Tight end Eric Ebron. Mario keeps his eyes open and see the oncoming block; he set himself and lowers his right shoulder and then gives a little bump and throws the TE onto his backside.

Then Mario goes on to make the tackle.