Assuming everyone stays healthy in the defensive tackle room, which is a big if, Oakland could have a talented group with Mario Edwards Jr, and rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall.
Since everyone is healthy at the moment, a competitive battle for the starting three-technique has emerged during training camp.
“[Edwards has] had some really good practices here,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Monday. “He’s flashed at times. He’s showed some penetration and quickness. It’s a very competitive situation now with Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall back. We’re happy to have him Mario out here healthy and rolling here again.”
Edwards has flashed a ton of potential during his first three seasons as a Raider but has struggled to stay on the field due to lingering injuries. And if Edwards can’t stay healthy then there is no chance of beating out Hurst and Hall.
As such, Edwards used this past offseason to focus on his health.
“Me, I just did what I wanted to do,” Edwards said after Tuesday’s practice. “Just worked on staying healthy. Working on doing things to help my body stay right. I figured once that happens, everything else will take care of itself.”
In the Raiders new 4-3 scheme, Edwards has made a position change to defensive tackle. But he expects to move around the line of scrimmage to utilize his athleticism.
“Just playing all up and down the line, from end to tackle and nose,” Edwards added. “Just shows my versatility and lets me get mismatches against other people.”
It’s when Edwards is lined up at the three-technique that he thinks he will be a great fit in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s new defense.
“Paul is great, man,” Edwards said. “He always has the three-technique penetrating, penetrator of the defense. Just knowing that I can get up the field and cause havoc to the play.”
Bringing pass rush from the 3-tech spot is also where Hall and Hurst made their draft stock and why the Raiders made them in the second and fifth round respectively. They come in as contenders to take Edwards’s job. But we are more than halfway thru camp and Edwards is still clinging to the job.
Tuesday Edwards showed that the positivity surrounding Edwards could be legit with his notable pass rush move which he learned today from Warren Sapp who was at Raiders camp.
Moves like that could give the rookie hopefuls a run for their money. And if Edwards continues to show different ways to attack the quarterback and stays healthy, it will be hard to keep him on the sidelines.
Editor’s note: Levi Damien contributed to this piece.