Finding some interior pass rush will be crucial to the Raiders’ success this season. When you have the Defensive Player of the Year getting 11.0 sacks and leading the league in pressures, and yet have the league’s fewest sacks (25.0) you have a major problem.
The most obvious way to remedy the problem would be to add a player to the team. But what if that player is already in-house?
Mario Edwards Jr thinks he can provide the answer.
“I always think I can come in and contribute,” said Edwards. “Go in and do what coach asks of me, go in and push the pocket and get pass rush up the middle.”
The third year defensive lineman missed all but two games last season recovering from a hip injury. But even before that, he was more known for his run stopping ability than his ability to get to the quarterback.
Edwards said that pass rush is the one area he has been working on the most this offseason, putting in work, as he said doing “Lots of squats, a lot of lower body, a lot of running, sandpit work”
“Ready to get more pass rush, get off the ball, penetrate, things of that nature,” said Edwards. “I think I play the run pretty good, but just focusing on the other side, pass rush.”
Edwards returns late last season and wasn’t much of a factor after having been out for what amounted to a full calendar year. He will now be healthy for his first full offseason with the team since they made him their selection at 35 overall in the second round in the 2015 draft.
Just last week, GM Reggie McKenzie spoke of Edwards as being “extremely motivated” to not only return to form, but to be “dominant.” Jack Del Rio said similar followed the team’s OTA practice Tuesday.
“Last year was almost a lost year,” Del Rio said of Edwards. “At the end of the day we didn’t get a whole lot of Mario on the field. Excited to get him going and his conditioning and the work he’s doing and the price he’s paying and all those things. I think with the natural development and maturity of playing that position, I expect him to take a big step forward.”
No more important step forward for Edwards to make than to be the answer the Raiders need in their quest for the missing interior pass rush.