When the Oakland Raiders drafted defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. in the second round in 2015 out of Florida State, it came with high expectations that he could be a premiere pass rusher in the NFL.
But Edwards has been limited to just 16 games in two seasons due to injury. Towards the end of his rookie season he suffered a neck sprain, and last preseason he went down with a hip injury that cost him 14 games in 2016.
Without Edwards, the Raiders pass rush has struggled outside of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
Edwards is healthy going into the 2017 season though, and while he has not produced so far in his NFL career, the Raiders still have high expectations for 23-year-old. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. recently said he believes Edwards will have a breakout year in 2017, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“You have to account for him,” Norton said. “Mario is fast. He’s twitchy. He plays hard, and you have to deal with him when he’s around; you have to know where he is. … We certainly expect him to have a breakout year.”
In his rookie season when he played 14 games Edwards had 42 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He had eight career sacks and 23 tackles for loss in his career at Florida State though, so he has demonstrated the potential to be a game-wrecker in the backfield.
With Edwards and Bruce Irvin likely to be lined up opposite Mack on the defensive line, and first round draft pick Gareon Conley likely improving the secondary, the Raiders defense should be much improved this upcoming season.