Khalil Mack has a list of top quarterbacks he wants to sack floating in his head. He hasn’t checked off a single name, not because he hasn’t faced any legends. The No. 5 overall pick doesn’t have an NFL sack through five games, a streak he hopes to break on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
That fact shouldn’t define Mack’s impact. The outside linebacker has shown great agility and skill as a pass rusher and run defender, something crystal clear when examining his play on tape.
“Naturally, people think, ‘well that guy doesn’t have a sack, so how good is he playing?’” Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “When you really sit down and watch the film, you see how much this guy affects people, how they attack him, how many people are involved in attacking him, what he does on every single play and how much chaos he causes out there, you really understand how good the kid is playing right now and how good he can become.”
Pro Football Focus considers Mack among the NFL’s most productive linebackers, with high marks for four of the last five games. They gave him seven quarterback pressures last week against San Diego, though quarterback Philip Rivers proved surprisingly slippery.
“He’s just getting better and better every single week,” Sparano said “I know when I watch the film, if I take this hat and turn it the other way right now and think of my self only as an offensive line coach, I don’t want to block the guy when I’m watching him. Blocking him is a hard job, based on the film that I’ve watched.”
Opponents have often used double teams to hold Mack back, normally with a tackle and a tight end. Ineffectiveness from other pass rushers –- LaMarr Woodley, in particular, must do better on the other side -- has made occurrences regular.
“With Khalil, that’s happening right now,” Sparano said. “He’s starting to learn even play by play. He’ll see a double team once and when that double team comes back during the course of the game, he understands it and sees it and reacts to it completely different than he might have done the first time. He doesn’t have to get hit in the face with a skunk 10 times to know it’s a skunk.”