Khalil Mack is about to become a star

The Raiders' second-year linebacker is poised for a huge year in 2015.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Khalil Mack is about to become a star

Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack was a monster last season, rivaling Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald for the title of best defensive rookie, and proving to be one of the best run defenders in the entire NFL. He has earned plenty of accolades for his first-year performance, including being ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s list of the 25 best NFL players under the age of 25.

But if the preseason is any indication, Mack is going to be even better in Year 2. A lot better.

Mack put together a performance against Arizona in the teams’ Week 3 preseason game in a way we have never seen before.

That isn’t hyperbole. The +11.3 grade he produced in that game was higher than we’ve seen from anyone else at his position in the preseason before.

He was his usual excellent self against the run, but he wreaked havoc on the Arizona offensive line in a way we haven’t seen before, notching a pair of sacks, a hit and five additional hurries over his 50 snaps. The main victim of his trail of devastation was Cardinals right tackle Bradley Sowell, who had an almost matching stat line and grade in the other direction as he was beaten consistently all game long. Mack has been by far the best pass-rusher at his position so far this preseason.

This is a big development, because while Mack was a force against the run as a rookie, he didn’t provide much as a pass-rusher. If he can add this kind of pass-rushing ability to his arsenal as a sophomore, he could become one of the league’s biggest defensive stars.

Mack is capable of causing a lot of problems for an offense. If he carries this form into the regular season, then the AFC West is going to need to call for some reinforcements at offensive tackle.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Tim Edell

    What your saying is you have never seen a performance like this so far???

    The Raiders after years of bad drafting and questionable FA moves have finally hit it big the last 2 drafts. It may turn out the best player in both of those drafts may have landed in their laps.

  • MD_in_MD

    He flat out abused and embarrassed Veldheer, along with the rest of their o-line. I REALLY hope to see him get at least one good pounding on Russell Wilson tonight.
    More importantly, however, is Mario Edwards showing his game 2 wasn’t a fluke. He needs to show consistency….

    • Malachi

      doubt wilson or mack play tonight

    • RAY NJ

      Don’t blink…he won’t see much time tonite.

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  • Amos McCannell

    Love to see this stud play.. he’s special.

  • JT

    Go Raiders!

  • Darrell

    Your right Tim and they didn’t even have to move up or down! I wish Reggie had done as good in his first draft 3 years ago.

    • Derek Long

      That’s really not fair to Reggie’s success. He’s still knocked for that draft, but his first pick was a late 3rd rounder, and he drafted for a style they would abandon after a miserable first year. His drafts since that year have been excellent, and although the Hayden pick has time to still work out, the ship has all but sailed because of where he was taken. The Watson pick seemed to finally be paying off, then a freak injury erased that. He certainly could have done better, but what he has found in the mid to late rounds is what the great GM’s find. With JDR’s experience, he will likely have far more input on the early round selections and really help to build this team moving forward.

      • Darrell

        No Derek, Reggie’s first draft he had 1 pick in the third
        round. It is the second draft, 3 years ago I was talking about. The draft when
        he dropped from #3 to #12 to get Hayden. Sounded great at the time but 3 years
        later he is still a question mark. The last two drafts have been fantastic. I
        am also a supporter of Reggie, very happy with what he has done. Just wish
        Hayden could be what Mack and Cooper appear to be! Wish he and that class would have been better. Remember the 4th round pick QB Tyler Wilson I believe. I don’t even think he is in the NFL anymore.

      • Darrell

        I absolutely love the coaching staff! I think he got some great teachers. Wish this thing with Sio would resolve itself. I haven’t been able to get any info on it???

  • Derek Long

    Mack led the league in QB hurries last year, so it’s wrong to say “he didn’t provide much as a pass-rusher” last season. He only tallied 4 sacks, but with the soft ass defensive looks the last staff was handing out, 4 might as well have been 15.