Oakland Raiders-Vikings Preview: Five players to watch
May 8, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (97) at rookie minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
4. Mario Edwards, Jr.
While Amari Cooper has shown so far in camp and in the first game of preseason that he was probably the right man at the #4 overall spot in the 2015 NFL draft, many Raider fans may remember that another player who was considered a can’t miss prospect was available at that spot, too, in USC defensive end Leonard Williams. The Raiders chose Cooper and then addressed the defensive line with their 2nd round pick, taking Florida State’s Mario Edwards, Jr.
Edwards, a very athletic and versatile defensive lineman, was thought to be a bit of a reach at the top of the second round, and in his first appearance in an NFL game he didn’t show much to shake that notion. He was underwhelming in his on-field appearances, and got pretty well handled by Rams linemen on his way to recording only a single tackle all game and being a near non-factor in the pass rush.
If Edwards wants to prove he’s not a misused or wasted pick by the McKenzie administration, he’ll need to step it up under the lights with the cameras rolling, and soon. Edwards also may benefit from some injuries to the Vikings offensive front: Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt went down last week with an injury, meaning that Edwards may be facing up with a 3rd string guy if he plays deep into the game.
Edwards has been lucky enough to come to a team that has a veteran starter at his position in Justin Tuck, as well as a coach who he worked with in college in Sal Sunseri. He was drafted to be part of Ken Norton’s tenacious, aggressive defense and to be the eventual opposite bookend for pass rush demon Khalil Mack. He’ll need to start showing up and showing out if he doesn’t want to spend his rookie year watching from the sidelines.
Next: Player to Watch: Derek Carr