Khalil Mack Expected to be Leader on Oakland Raiders Defense


During his rookie season, Oakland Raiders fifth overall pick Khalil Mack was unquestionably the best player on the defense as he emerged as one of the NFL’s breakout linebackers in just his first season. It was an impressive feat for the rookie, who before joining the Raiders had played against small school competition for much of his college career save for his breakout game against Ohio State in his final season at the University of Buffalo.

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At the end of the year, Mack was rated as not just one of the best rookies in his class by Pro Football Focus, but one of the best outside linebackers in the league, ranking inside the Top 5 in run defense and getting high grades on quarterback pressures over the course of a rookie season where he was one of the most impressive pass rushers in the AFC West.

That reputation has his new head coach in Jack Del Rio expecting big things from Mack in 2015. Not surprisingly considering that the former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator got to see his new toy up close twice last season and sat in on team meetings where the AFC West rivals of the Raiders likely put plenty of focus on stopping the rookie.

According to Mack, Del Rio has already told him that he expects the now second year Raider to increase his role not only on the field, but in the locker room as someone who can be a leader as one of the team’s most talented players.

“Coach expects me to be a leader on the defense,” Mack said according to CSN Bay Area. “That’s (a role) I’m looking forward to growing into.”

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As expected, Del Rio has already also told Mack he is going to be an integral part of the Oakland defense with a new coaching staff, even if the team has yet to name their defensive coordinator. Something that Del Rio can guarantee as the defensive minded head coach will have plenty of say in how the unit is ran in the upcoming season. That increased role and the opportunity to build on an outstanding rookie season has Mack excited for 2015.

“He reached out and let me know that he’s excited,” Mack told CSN Bay Area. “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.”

It is expected that Mack will progress into one of the best linebackers in the league in the coming years as he showed in his rookie season that he is a force to be reckoned with. Getting a defensive minded head coach who has worked with Von Miller in Denver on a Broncos defense that was one of the best in the league under Del Rio’s watch, the sky is the limit for Mack as he has a head coach who not only expects him to lead, but will be giving him a role that allows him to grow into a dominant role for the Raiders in the years to come.