2023 will be Season No. 9 for recently-acquired Seahawks defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Following Wednesday's practice, the Florida State alum reflected on how familiar faces are helping to get him settled in with Seattle and why the Seahawks are a perfect fit for him.
In the second round of the 2015 draft, Raiders selected Edwards No. 35-overall. The Florida State alum started 24 games over three seasons, before being waived in 2018. After brief stints with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, Edwards notched a career-high 4.0 sacks with the Chicago Bears in 2020. After two seasons in the Windy City, Edwards spent 2022 with the Tennessee Titans, posting 17 combined tackles and 3.0 sacks.
Seattle's bi-weekly series The Sound gives an in-depth look at the team from behind-the-scenes. Edwards Jr. shared his sentiments for joining the team in episode 7, which he elaborated upon for the media on Wednesday.
"Kind of like what's going on here," said Edwards. "Just an opportunity. An opportunity to get out here and earn a spot. An opportunity to get out here and play. I had a lot of familiar faces. Tracy (Smith) was my special teams coach in Oakland. Lamar Campbell was my player development coach in Chicago. I played with Neiko Thorpe, and I played with Daren Bates. When I got here, there were a lot of familiar faces. It was like home to me."
In 2022, Seattle ranked No. 30 in run defense, allowing over 150 yards per game on the ground. Last season with Tennessee, Edwards shined in run support, earning a 72 run grade from Pro Football Focus (20th out of 82 edge defenders). With a 9.6 run stop percentage out of 122 snaps as a run defender, Edwards ranked No. 8 of all edge defenders. The veteran discussed why Seattle's 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt fits his skill set.
"It allows me to play fast, physical and aggressive," said Edwards. "It allows me to get off, penetrate, and be disruptive. A lot of things, get reach, stay reached, just be back there and cause havoc."
In eight seasons, Edwards has suited up for five franchises, with Seattle being the sixth. After playing for more than a handful of coaches over the last decade, Edwards discussed what it's like to play for Pete Carroll and experiencing an environment focused on the players' needs.
"It's player based," said Edwards. "He listens to the players, he works well with the players, and takes care of us as well. I just like the whole scheme. We have athletes on every level of the ball: D-line, linebacker, secondary, and it's good to be able to contribute to it. A majority of the coaches have played in the league, so they know what it's like. They know how our bodies feel and know what we go through. A lot of the time they understand how to work us, and still get the most out of us even with us being out here for three or four hours."
Mario Edwards Sr. paved the way for his son's league dreams, starring at corner for Florida State University before being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Edwards Sr. would play five seasons with Dallas and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Junior reflected on the impact of having a pro dad and following his footsteps.
"It was great man," said Edwards. "It was good to have a coach that I could go talk to and also talk to as a dad as well. Kind of have the blueprint on the coach's side and the player's side. At a young age, I kind of knew what I was going, who I was going to be when I grew up."
Surviving in the league for nearly a decade is not a given, but learning how to be a pro from his dad has helped Edwards along the way. When asked what he would tell younger players heading in the final game of the preseason, Edwards gave some sound advice.
"You're not just playing for this organization," he said. "You're playing for 31 other organizations. What you put on tape is what they're going to have. You can either continue your career and be three, four, five, or nine years like me, or it can go a different way. Make sure you put what you want to see on film."
Seattle's defensive front-seven has seen many changes this offseason, signing Edwards and defensive end Dre'Mont Jones, while bringing back nose tackle Jarran Reed and linebacker Bobby Wagner after time away from the franchise. Edwards dived into high hopes for what the group upfront can bring to the table in 2023.
"We are going to bring a lot to the table," said Edwards "From (Boye) Mafe, to (Derick) D-Hall, to DT (Darrell Taylor). Those guys are athletic and strong and can bend on the edge. On the inside you have Dre (Jones), me, and (Jarran) J-Reed. I just look at it like a three-headed monster. You get a little bit of everything with us three. I think we are going to play some hard-mouthed football this year."
Edwards cites great communication as a potential factor in the defense improving in 2023.
"Recently, even yesterday in practice," said Edwards. "Communicating with our guys, we were able to look at each other and give a little head nod or a little communication, and we understood that we wanted the game to be ran. Kind of understanding how to communicate, what certain guys like, how they like to run certain games, how they like to rush, and kind of assess them."
Last season, Seattle acquired linebacker Uchenna Nwosu via free agency. By season's end, Nwosu reached a new career-high in sacks with 9.5. A fresh start can often be a good thing, and the 2023 season provides Edwards another opportunity to restart and make a lasting impact in the Pacific Northwest.
Here is the roster for the 2023 Seahawks.