This offseason, the Oakland Raiders’ objective was to improve their No. 24-ranked pass defense. They simply gave up too many explosive plays, leading the NFL in that department in 2016. So the team added CB Gareon Conley in the first round and SS Obi Melifonwu in the second.
And DC Ken Norton Jr. recently spoke on how he loves the new members of his secondary. But that isn’t all Norton needs to make his unit solid against the pass in 2017, he needs a pass rush. Sure, the Raiders already have 2016 NFL Defensive player of the Year Khalil Mack over there.
And he got his with 11 sacks but the Raiders as a team were last in the entire NFL in sacks. Mack often had two and three players assigned to block him on a given pass play and he got no help. That’s mainly because the Raiders didn’t have a disruptive presence on the interior.
Having such a player would take away a lot of the double and triple-teams Mack receives. It would also take away opposing quarterbacks’ room to step up and throw when edge rushers get there. The Raiders didn’t have such a player because DE/DT Mario Edwards Jr. was injured most of the season.
At 6’3″, 280 pounds, running a 4.8 40, Edwards is a monster with an unstoppable blend of talents. He has the speed to come off the edge and power to manhandle RTs on the way to the QB. And that same combination makes him able to kick inside and wreak havoc from the interior.
Mack was more dominant in 2016 but had more sacks in 2015 with 15 because of Edwards. All great pass rushes have a guy that can bring it from the inside and Edwards is that guy for the Raiders. Now healthy, Edwards will open things up for Mack and Bruce Irvin, who came down the stretch last year.
Expect the Raiders to have a much better pass rush and pass defense in 2017!
Just win, baby!