The accolades continue to pile up for the 26-year-old NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Mack had another dominating season with 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and an interception he returned for a touchdown. After being the only player in history to be named All-Pro at two positions (Linebacker and Defensive end) in 2015, Associated Press created the “Edge Rusher” position. Mack was promptly named All-Pro at this new position.
Mack followed up his 15 sack 2015 season with an 11 sack campaign in 2016. His rare combination of power and speed made Mack unblockable at times as Blake Bortles discovers on this sack. Mack uses a fake inside step followed by a swim move and sheer quickness to turn the corner on the right tackle who can barely get a hand on him.
Defensive Coordinators like to rotate their defensive linemen as much as possible to prevent a drop off in pressure on the opposing quarterback. While the rest will keep a player “fresher”, fewer snaps equates to fewer opportunities to rush the passer. The efficiency with which the Edge Rusher can sack the quarterback has become more important.
It’s very much like the way a basketball player scoring 20 points on ten shots is more impactful than the player that requires 30 shots to score those same 20 points. An Edge Rusher has to make the most out of every pass rush opportunity he gets, and nobody in the league was more efficient last season than Khalil Mack as PFF notes.
In 2016 Mack made the leap from “dangerous pass rusher” to a player that really has an impact on the game. While the Raiders ultimately lost this game, Mack creates a turnover at a time the Raiders really needed one. Trailing the Chiefs 13-21 in the 3rd quarter, this could have been the play that sparked a comeback.
Going against a veteran like Alex Smith as well as a coach in Andy Reid can be frustrating for elite pass rushers. Reid understands he has to get the ball out fast and Smith is tailor made for the short passing game. Getting 2 of his season sacks against this tandem is just that much more impressive. On this play, Mack overpowers Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher utilizing his dreaded “straight arm” and strips Smith.
There were many people questioning Mack’s selection after only posting 4 sacks in his rookie year. The only question now is “why did he last to the 5th pick?”. He’s difficult to move in the run game and impossible to block in the passing game. With Mario Edwards Jr returning from injury, Mack should be even more dominant.
Finally, the place that Mack’s contributions were probably the most obvious was his knack for making a play that would seal a victory. It seemed like every time the Raiders had a lead late in the 4th quarter, Mack would create the turnover that ended the opposing teams drive. Here Cam Newton was his victim as Mack gets not only the strip and sack but also the fumble recovery.
With added talent around him, teams will not be able to focus solely on Mack. Look for him to have yet another All-Pro season. Opposing offensive coordinators will not be able to contain him, they will just be hoping to minimize the damage he does.