The Oakland Raiders didn’t have much of a pass rush outside of star OLB Khalil Mack in 2016. DE/DT Mario Edwards Jr. missing most of the season with a hip injury had much to do with it. No matter who you have outside, you need that stud inside to command to double-teams.
That’s how Edwards made Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, better in 2015. Mack would have had more than the 11 sacks he had in 2016 if he had Edwards in the lineup more. Stacy McGee provided a good rush from the interior until he started going through his injuries.
So the rest of the defensive front really suffered as they were last in the NFL in sacks in 2016. I was looking forward to McGee coming back with Edwards to bring the heat from the interior in 2017. But that won’t happen because McGee went to the Washington Redskins in free agency.
However, the Raiders got themselves a better 3-tech/5-tech in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes of UCLA is an absolute steal as he is a first-round talent. He’s a bit different as a football player but he reminds me of Mario Edwards Jr.
Both players are top-5 recruits in the respective recruiting classes that disappointed in college. And playing at too heavy of a weight is what caused them both to underperform while in school. Neither player was to blame for their respective weights being so high, they are not lazy players.
Edwards was invited to play at a higher weight to take double and triple-teams at Florida State. And Vanderdoes played overweight because he was coming back from a torn ACL last year. But like Edwards, Vanderdoes showed that he’s a freak athlete at his size in his offseason workouts.
He’s also strong and very advanced in the technical aspect of the game like Edwards is. In 2015, Raider Nation got a taste of how special Edwards could be as they got to see him in his best shape. Vanderdoes is down 40 pounds himself this year so we will get to see his first-round talent on display.
So look forward to have a double shot in the arm as Vanderdoes starts out and Edwards comes back healthy. That will open things up for Mack and Bruce Irvin, who was good down the stretch last year. Legendary Raiders owner Al Davis used to say, “The quarterback must go down and he must go down hard.”
The Raiders will be able to make that happen with four in 2017!
Just win, baby!