With the Raiders drafting well on the defensive side of the ball, the roster is getting full which could be bad for Mario Edwards Jr.
When the Oakland Raiders drafted defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr. 35th in the 2015 NFL Draft, it seemed like a surefire win. The Raiders drafted him to provide inside pressure and as a replacement for defensive tackle Justin Tuck. Tuck was injured during a home game versus the Denver Broncos in Week 5 that season, and was place on injured reserve. Edwards entered the game and was impressive against the run and put pressure on quarterback Payton Manning. All signs pointed to the Raiders finding their stud and new staple on the defensive line.
Fast forward three years and Edwards is now entering his final year of his four-year rookie deal. All that potential has yielded little. Just five sacks in his first three year, to be exact. Injuries mounted: a neck injury cut short his rookie year and a hip injury in camp wrecked his 2016 campaign. Last season, he was finally healthy and started out with three sacks in his first four games. Things were finally starting to click – or so it seemed.
Just as fast as it began, it disappeared. Edwards became a ghost for the second half of the 2017 season.
Enter New Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden.
“If we can get an inside pass rusher [to help defensive end Khalil Mack], a better inside pass rusher, a more consistent inside rush, a dominant inside rusher, you would see the best of [Khalil Mack],” Head coach Jon Gruden said. “So, Mario Edwards if you are listening out there, if we could get that inside rush going, that’s what Warren Sapp did for Simeon Rice.”
Gruden made no secret about his desire to have a dominant inside pass rusher. To that end, the Raiders picked up defensive end PJ Hall with the 57th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hall was a dominating inside presence last season for the Bearkats. In the fifth round, the Raiders traded up to select defensive tackle Maurice “Mo” Hurst. Hurst was a devastating inside pass rusher for the Wolverines.
Edwards now has two hungry players, both with chips on their shoulders, behind him in the depth chart.
Both Hall and Hurst have something to prove. Hall wants to show the NFL that you don’t have to be 6-foot-4 and from a Power 5 school to become a force at the pro level. Hurst wants to show that his heart condition, which he was medically cleared to play in the NFL, will not hinder him. He wants to show that teams made a mistake passing on him for four rounds.
Competition is King
The message to Mario Edwards Jr should be crystal clear: bring your “A” game.
Let the competition begin.