Editor's note: Stay logged on to CSNCalifornia.com all week as Raiders Insider Scott Bair will bring you comprehensive coverage from the NFL owners meetings in Arizona.
PHOENIX -- It’s hard to find fault with Khalil Mack’s rookie year. The Raiders edge rusher made a tremendous impact against the pass and especially the run. He was the highest-rated 4-3 outside linebacker by analytics site Pro Football Focus, had a high rate of tackles for losses, and finished third in rookie of the year voting.
New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio doesn’t want Mack to be satisfied with a good start. He believes last year’s No. 5 overall pick can improve on last year’s results.
If we had to be picky, Mack’s sack total could’ve been higher. He had just four sacks despite significant quarterback pressure, bringing the quarterback down a handful of times in 54 total pressures.
Del Rio believes he can bring that sack total up. Some technical adjustments should allow Mack to finish with authority and create even more havoc.
“We feel like that’s where he has a chance to take off and grow,” Del Rio said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “Adding some of that bend on the edge and finishing capability around the quarterback will take him from someone who is close all the time and breathing down the neck of the quarterback to someone who is getting the passer on the ground, forcing fumbles, and creating turnovers.”
Del Rio should know about that. He played linebacker, and was defensive coordinator in Denver when Von Miller had 37.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 41 games playing a hybrid position.
Mack plays strongside linebacker in the base defense and end in sub packages like the nickel and dime, which require extra defensive backs. Del Rio believes Mack can excel from either spot, and didn’t rule out the prospect of him playing some defensive end in the base defense.
No matter where he lines up, Del Rio expects Mack to make a great impact in 2015.
“We do think that Khalil is a special young man with truly special abilities,” Del Rio said. “We’re looking forward to working with him to develop those talents.
“He’s a powerful young man. He plays with strength at the point of attack that’s rare even in this league. We’re going to teach him how to bend and finish at a higher rate, so he can get that sack total up.”