Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack played his rookie season at a listed 252 pounds. The weight treated him well.
The No. 5 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft finished third in rookie of the year voting. He had 76 tackles -- including 16 for a loss -- four sacks, a forced fumble as a strongside linebacker and an end in sub packages.
Mack and the Raiders believe those totals should be higher. The University of Buffalo product believed some extra weight would do that. He put on 10-15 pounds of raw muscle this offseason and now looks, well, like a Mack truck.
“We asked our guys to come in and eat right and train hard, and then I really trust [head strength and conditioning coach] Joe Gomes and his staff to help us establish healthy, productive weights for our guys,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said after Tuesday's OTA session. “As you know, Khalil doesn’t carry a lot of body fat. He’s added some lean mass and he’s put on good weight. We feel good about where he is.”
The added bulk shouldn’t slow him down, and it won’t prevent him from playing linebacker in this defense. He will be pointed toward the quarterback more often this season, armed with improved pass-rushing technique that should pick his sack totals up.
He gained respect throughout the league during his rookie year. Players make major strides between their first and second year, leaving many to believe Mack’s on the cusp of stardom.
He was ranked the NFL’s No. 35 overall player by CBS Sports this week. Raiders personnel and outsiders alike have high hopes for Mack’s development.
Raiders players know first hand how dominant Mack can be. Left tackle Donald Penn, who faces him each practice, calls Mack a young stud. New middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had a one-word prediction for what Mack will be this season.
“Monster,” Lofton said. “He’s young, but he’s got so much more. I’m really impressed with him. He comes every day to work. He studies and goes out there and executes it on the football field. Some guys, if they have a good year that first year as rookies, they are Mr. Joe Cool. That’s not him. He comes to work every single day.”