This is CHGO’s Chicago Bears 2022 player preview series. Learn more about each player and what to expect from them this year.
Mario Edwards Jr. is entering his third year with the Chicago Bears after being a part of the team’s defensive line rotation the last two seasons.
After having a career-high four sacks and six tackles for loss in 2020, Edwards’ production saw a mild dip last season.
Advanced Stat to Know: Edwards’ 28.6% miss tackle rate was the highest of defensive linemen who played at least 200 snaps. (PFF)
Best Game of 2021
One game stands out above the rest by a large margin for Edwards. That would be his performance against the Browns in his season debut in Week 3 after serving a two-game suspension.
In this game, Edwards notched two sacks — his only sacks of the season.
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Can Mario Edwards Jr. consistently produce as a piece of the defensive line rotation?
Edwards is a capable player. He’s provided big plays in the backfield for the Bears over the years.
The problem is that those are few and far between. At least that was the case last season.
He will make a splash play and then disappear — sometimes for weeks.
For Edwards, he needs to eliminate (or at least limit) these quiet stretches in his game and make the most of his limited time.
He averaged 18 snaps per game last season, and even though that’s not a lot, Edwards needs to produce more when on the field as he did in 2020 when he played roughly the same amount of snaps and had more than double the output.
A good way to see the field more would be to reduce the amount of critical personal fouls. It’s something Edwards must clean up. He was called twice for unnecessary roughness, once for unsportsmanlike conduct and he also roughed the passer one time.
Under Coach Eberflus in 2021, the Indianapolis Colts’ defense was the least penalized in the league. In Eberflus’ HITS principle, the “S” stands for “Smart.”
By playing smarter than he did a season ago, Edwards may see an uptick in his playing time and would be a better teammate as well.
Let’s face it, the Bears’ depth at defensive line isn’t what it once was. Edwards will need to step up for Chicago in 2022.
His role will remain limited. Edwards hasn’t started multiple games in the same season since 2017. In fact, he’s only started one since that season. He’s only seen more than 50 percent of defensive snaps in a season just twice in his career (2015 and 2017).
Edwards will play behind Justin Jones and will most likely share snaps with other linemen like Angelo Blackson and Khyiris Tonga. All have different skillsets and just when and how much Edwards is on the field comes down to game situations and matchups.
Edwards is a proven pass rusher. If he can show the Bears he can do that consistently, he will be on the field more to get after quarterbacks.
As long as he does not continue struggling with those avoidable penalties, that is.
The hope is that Edwards fully buys into what the Bears are building on defense and its HITS philosophy. If he does, there’s a strong chance he could surpass his impressive 2020 season.
Prediction: 3.5 Sacks, 15 Tackles, 5 TFL, 8 QB Hits.