Each NFL season, every team has a player that bears a little added attention. So which performer could turn the corner for the Oakland Raiders in ’17?
Welcome to yet another 32-team series from End Zone Score. In recent months, we took the time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers.
Every NFL season features players that come into their own after a slow start to their careers. It’s tough to tell when each performer’s coming-put party will take place. Some are immediate successes. Others take longer due to numerous circumstances, but they prove to be worth the wait. Here we will try and pinpoint a player from each team in the league that we feel is on the verge of putting it altogether.
DE Mario Edwards Jr.
Now let’s see if the defensive side of the football can get its act together. Last offseason, general manager Reggie McKenzie signed free agents such as outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and free safety Reggie Nelson. He also used a first-round draft choice on strong safety Karl Joseph. But despite having the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack, Jack Del Rio’s team made no significant progress when it came to stopping opponents.
All told, the Raiders came away with an impressive 30 takeaways. But Mack had nearly half (11) of the team’s disappointing total of 25 sacks. And Oakland’s defensive unit allowed a whopping 45 offensive touchdowns.
Which means the return of Mario Edwards Jr., who missed nearly all of 2016 with a hip injury, could be huge. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get a whole lot of Mario on the field,” explained Del Rio to Senior Insider Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com last month. “Excited to get him going. His conditioning and the work he’s putting in and the price he’s paying and all of those things. I think the natural development, the maturity of playing that position, I think that we expect him to take a big step forward.”
As a rookie, the 2015 second-round pick from Florida State played in 14 games. He totaled 42 stops, a pair of sacks, knocked down two passes and forced three fumbles. If he stays healthy, you can look for those numbers to jump significantly and the Oakland Raiders defense to make some serious strides.