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Mario Edwards Jr healthy and “extremely motivated” to prove he can be “a dominant football player”

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Since the moment the Raiders drafted Mario Edwards Jr in the second round of the 2015 draft, they have been telling people how motivated he is. Mainly because that was the knock on him coming out of Florida State.

That kind of criticism may actually have been good for Edwards in the long run. Using people’s criticisms of your motivation... well, as motivation to... well, stay motivated.

In the midst of proving his doubters wrong, another issue cropped up for Edwards — the injury bug.

He missed the latter part of a very promising rookie season with a neck injury and then a hip injury he suffered in the following preseason had him miss all but the final two games of last season.

That handful of games as a rookie in which Edwards was showing great promise is becoming a distant memory at this point, but he is eager to show he can find that once again.

“He’s extremely motivated,” Reggie McKenzie said of Edwards in a radio interview for 95.7 The Game. “He wants to show the league that he’s a dominant football player. Not just a solid football [player], that he’s dominant. He’s healthy, he’s strong, he’s in a good mindset, so he’s ready to roll and we are extremely anxious to see him get going come the season.”

We’ve been saying this for a while, but a healthy Mario Edwards is crucial to the Raiders’ interior line creating pressure on the quarterback as well as stopping the run.

It was that interior pass rush that was most notably missing for the Raiders last season as the team had the league’s fewest sacks (25.0) despite getting 11.0 from Khalil Mack alone and another 7.0 from Bruce Irvin.

That lack of pressure up the middle was a major reason the Raiders had the league’s 24th ranked passing defense and 26th overall defense.