Comparing Oakland Raiders Linebackers to past greats

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Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Khalil Mack – Buffalo University

#52 – Ht. 6-3 – Wt. 260

The 2014 first round pick (Fifth Overall) is a menace, plain and simple. Mack’s freakish speed (4.55 40-yd Dash), strength (23 reps on the Bench Press) and explosiveness (1.53 10yd split and 40 inch vertical) will cause havoc for any offense, and the scary thing is that he’s just going to get better. Mack was a force against the run and his pass-rushing improved as the season went on. While he only tallied 4 sacks he led the team with 51 QB pressures and 25 QB hits. As a rookie, Mack was the highest-rated 4-3 Outside Linebacker in the NFL, both overall and against the run according to Pro Football Focus.

Khalil will be looking to make the jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and with an improved offense hopefully holding on to more late-game leads, his sack opportunities should increase. #52 has already been challenged by head coach Jack Del Rio and new Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. (both good linebackers during their careers) to improve his sack numbers and they fully expect his numbers to be at least in the double digit neighborhood. #52 will blitz more from his LB position and have his hand in the dirt playing DE during obvious passing downs this year.

Ken Norton Jr.’s defense is less exotic than predecessor Jason Tarver’s and instead relies on fundamentals and allowing playmakers to diagnose and attack. The Oakland Raiders during late owner Al Davis’ time really never valued LB’s like other teams, instead focusing on down linemen pressure and exceptional coverage from the secondary to help each other.

That being the case, there are still a few past Raider LB’s that commanded attention from opposing Offensive Coordinators. Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks is truly the one LB that stands out from past great Raiders teams. “The Mad Stork” was a lengthy player that was extremely effective against the run and very disruptive in coverage. I believe Mack will play more like another great that played DE however, HOF defensive end Howie Long.

Howie was incredible against the run and was extremely hard to block when rushing the passer. Long did most of his damage with a bull rush and speed early on in his career but later learned to “set up” his opponent and usually earned his sacks before the snap because of this cerebral approach. Long’s use of his hands, straight-up tenacity and unwillingness to lose his individual battle raised the level of play of his teammates. It is this level of accountability that makes Hall of Famers and Khalil Mack exudes this trait. Watch Mack attack the line of scrimmage and you can easily see similarities between him and old “75”.

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