OAKLAND – Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack had three tackles, two sacks, six other quarterback pressures and a forced fumble in Sunday’s 30-23 exhibition loss to the Arizona Cardinals, leaving him plenty to choose from when asked to select his favorite play of the night.
He went a different direction.
“I was happy about quarterback Matt McGloin throwing it to Brice (Butler) and tying up the game,” Mack said, describing the 2-point conversion that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. “I thought we were going to finish. I was just talking to Matt and I told him to seal the deal. And he did it.”
That wasn’t on an NFL.com highlight devoted entirely to No. 52. Mack was so active against Arizona that it’s 2 minutes, 42 seconds long. He abused offensive tackles with power and speed, but this bull rusher flashed a few new moves added to a growing arsenal.
“It was cool, it was cool,” Mack said. “We did some things that we wanted to do and it worked. Now, onto the next game.”
Mack didn’t spend much time talking about himself in the wake of an awesome first-unit defensive effort. The Raiders produced near constant quarterback pressure in the first half that led to a pair of Nate Allen interceptions. He wasn’t getting overly worked up about one preseason game, but his dominance in his only extended stretch of the preseason was a sight to behold. The kid couldn’t be stopped.
“He was terrific,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought he played very well. We got some good pressure on the quarterback, he was a large part of that. I know he had a couple of sacks and a couple of other plays. He was really stout in the running game as well.”
That’s what the Raiders want from their most disruptive force. They know that, if Mack is going well, the whole unit fares better. This preseason taste of what could come with Mack attacking regularly from the defensive end spot certainly excites teammates and fans alike about just how good Mack can be. Many have said he’s on the verge of a breakout year playing from the defensive end spot. Efforts like Sunday will ensure that happens.
“He’s gone through 16 games. He has some experience in this game,” free safety Charles Woodson said. “This guy is only going to get better. He’s only getting his feet wet right now. He’s going to be a star.”
Mack has bulked up to play on the line, and is crazy strong at 265 pounds. He believes game experience has really helped maximize physical ability.
“The game has slowed down a lot,” Mack said. “You can see a lot of things before the snap. There are a lot of things you can do and read, especially after watching film. So we’re trying to capitalize on everything. Things are looking up and we’re getting better as a team. That’s something we’re excited about, but we still have to get better.”
There’s always room to improve, but the Raiders provided a solid combination of pass rush, run defense and coverage against the Cardinals in the first, flashing potential to be a strong defensive team.
“I thought, defensively, we flew around,” safety Charles Woodson said. “That’s going to be really the key to our success this year, flying around, getting to the football and being able to harass the passer.”