ALAMEDA -– Khalil Mack wasn’t a Raider more than an hour before the comparison was first made. Then head coach Dennis Allen came down from the draft room, sat in front of the press and likened him to Von Miller.
That’s high praise to be sure.
The Broncos outside linebacker has 44 sacks in 48 games, and is a disruptive force against the run and pass. He’s strong yet agile, quick yet bullish in tireless pursuit of the ball carrier.
Mack has those qualities, in addition to a similar build, with long arms and lean muscle needed for extreme power.
Allen also planned to use Mack as he used Miller when coordinating the Broncos defense in 2011.
After eight games watching Mack play, it’s clear those comparisons are valid. That will be evident on Sunday, when the Raiders and Broncos square off on Sunday afternoon at O.co Coliseum.
Expectations were sky high as Mack entered the league, and he’s met them in every way save one. Mack doesn’t have a sack, but he has 10 tackles for losses and 28 total pressures.
Miller has nine sacks and 43 total pressures (per Pro Football Focus), but isn’t asked to be the run defender Mack has been.
Productivity shouldn’t be the only points of comparison. Though they aren’t identical, similar styles emerge when you turn on the tape.
“I think Khalil has extreme power and burst. We think Von has that extreme quickness off the ball,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “Khalil is very quick as well. The ability to flip their hips is very similar. The long arms for their body and things like that. There are similarities but there are also some differences. Khalil has extreme power. As long as he keeps throwing his hands at people and using that, he’s right where we need him to be and he’s very conscious of that.
"There are some similarities in their movements and things. I do know that both guys can cause havoc. We’re really excited to have the one that we have in our program.”
Mack seems to improve each week. He’s been a steady run defender, but his pass-rushing technique seems to be more effective. That has allowed him to create pressure despite significant attention. It also gives encouragement that the sacks will come, even without attention diverted by strong pass rusher on the other side.
Miller has that in defensive end DeMarcus Ware, a sack master in his own right. That allows Miller to stay put more that he used to, but Mack and Miller still play a similar role.
“(The Raiders are) doing a tremendous job of utilizing him,” He plays much the same role as we use Von and he plays strong outside on under or weak outside on over and then defensive end on some downs. I know a lot has been made that he hasn’t had a sack, but I think he might lead the league in holding penalties versus him. He’s tremendous and a guy that we’re very aware of.”