NAPA Twenty minutes before the Raiders joint practice with the Lions on Tuesday, Mario Edwards Jr. received pass-rushing advice from Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Sapp, who won a Super Bowl with Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay and spent the last four years of his career with the Raiders, probably had some words of wisdom the yet-to-break out fourth-year Raider could benefit from. Edwards wouldnt divulge exactly what move Sapp harped on, but said he executed that move to perfection in practice when beating Lions center and 2018 first-rounder Frank Ragnow to pressure the quarterback.
We just kept repeating it and repeating it and I just tried it, Edwards said of his pre-practice session with Sapp. It worked.
Just to do a certain move and to make sure that once I do it, to sell it real good and then rip, Edwards said of what Sapp told him. It worked, worked good for me definitely going to continue to put it in my arsenal.
Edwards will need as many tricks in his arsenal as possible this season. Theres a reason the Raiders drafted two defensive tackles in P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst, and signed veteran Ahtyba Rubin for added competition. The middle of the defensive line was arguably Oaklands worst position group a season ago, with Eddie Vanderdoes, Justin Ellis and Treyvon Hester failing to muster any real threat on the interior. Denico Autry, the Raiders best defensive tackle in 2017, signed with the Colts in free agency.
Edwards played defensive end the first three years of his career after the Raiders used a 2015 second-round pick on him, but hell primarily play defensive tackle in 2018 with Bruce Irvin moving to defensive end, Oakland drafting Arden Key and Tank Carradine signing in free agency. Staying healthy is priority No. 1 for Edwards – hes played only 30 games in three seasons – and hell need to parlay that good health into the first truly impactful season of his career if he wants to stay ahead of the rookie defensive tackles.
Hes had some really good practices here. Hes flashed at times, Gruden said. Hes showed some penetration and quickness. Its a very competitive situation now with Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall back. Were happy to have him Mario out here healthy and rolling here again.
Last season, Edwards tallied two total sacks in the first two games and three in the first four. He only recorded half a sack the rest of the regular season. Edwards missed games late in the season against the Cowboys and Eagles due to injury, but returned for the season finale against the Chargers.
Playing 14 games in 2017 was a major improvement from the two games he played in 2016. Now in a contract year, Edwards just wants to play all 16 for the first time in four years.
I just did what I wanted to do, working on staying healthy, Edwards said of his offseason. I think once that happens everything else will take care of itself.
Edwards thinks he can play defensive end, defensive tackle and nose tackle this season to showcase versatility he hasnt yet displayed. Hes enticed by the fact Paul Guenthers defense features the three-technique as its penetrator, so maybe well actually see Edwards consistently get into opposing backfields instead of just for the first four games.
But nothing Edwards might be able to do on the field matters unless hes actually active on game day.
Like he said, thats the first step, and he can only hope the results follow so he doesnt get surpassed by two rookies.