Generally speaking, Raiders players haven’t had a ton of interaction with new head coach Jack Del Rio yet. That time will certainly come.
Right now, Del Rio is trying to complete his coaching staff and players are free to enjoy a true down period in the NFL offseason.
Khalil Mack has exchanged texts with Del Rio, where it became clear that the expectations for the outside linebacker remain high. Mack finished in third place for the Associated Press’ Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and continued improvement should help him realize star potential.
That is Mack’s plan. Del Rio apparently expects that as well.
“He reached out and let me know that he's excited,” Mack told CSN Bay Area on Saturday before the NFL Honors show. “He said I’m going to be a big part of this defense. I’m excited and I can’t wait to get started to be back to work.”
The No. 5 overall pick was also a big part of last year’s defense. Del Rio wants more.
“Coach expects me to be a leader on the defense,” Mack said. “That’s (a role) I’m looking forward to growing into.”
Mack was a quieter sort last season, happy to learn from veteran defensive lineman like Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith. Those two are expected to return and be vocal leaders yet again, but Mack can lead an on-field effort with his extraordinary gifts during his second season as a pro.
“He’s an impressive young man,” Del Rio said during his introductory press conference. “He was a tremendous talent coming out in the draft. He’s off to a solid start. I think for him and for all the young players, and for all the players period, it’s about putting in the work. There’s no short cut to being really good. There’s no short cut to being a great player. You have to earn it. You have to work at it. You have to sharpen your skills. You have to work on your conditioning. You have to be a great teammate and not just be good yourself but lead people around you. I’m really excited to get to work and get started building with him.”