August 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (97) rushes during the second quarter in a preseason NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Rams 18-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Winner: Mario Edwards, Jr.
When the Raiders selected Florida State DE Mario Edwards Jr. with the 35th overall pick, many prognosticators and experts called the pick a reach, and for good reason. Edwards had an unimpressive 2014 campaign for the Seminoles and really didn’t have a very impressive body of work past a few stellar performances in key games in 2013. Despite his high level of athletic talent, it seemed that there were a few more promising options for the Raiders in his position group at that point in the draft.
The first time Mario Edwards, Jr. was able to show his stuff in live action, he lived up to his low billing, getting shoved around bullied by the 2nd and 3rd string offensive linemen of the Rams. It seemed that he had a ways to go if he was going to live up to his relatively high draft status and be a part of this rebuilt Raider defense. I considered him one of five players to watch going into Saturday’s game because he would need to do something to make up for that poor performance.
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And while Edwards didn’t quite fill up the stat sheet on Saturday, he had a dramatically better game. Playing most of the game with the 2nd unit, Edwards managed a QB hit as well as a half sack that forced a fumble recovered by the Raiders. He lined up as the weakside end and generated a solid pass rush from the edge on multiple occasions. He lined up a few times in a 3-technique as a tackle and pushed inside. He collapsed the perimeter on run plays, allowing linebackers to track and finish cleanly.
Edwards didn’t have any sort of breakout game and of course he did it against mostly backup opposition. But he showed that he can have an impact, and that he can do a few different things, hinting that he may be able to be the kind of role-player the Raiders need him to be right away.
Next: Winner: Loser: Trent Richardson