Oakland Raiders 2015 Preview: Three bold player predictions

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1. Khalil Mack will lead the NFL in sacks.

Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrates behind San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) after a Raiders sack against the 49ers during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Khalil Mack is a monster. That’s the short way of putting it. Mack is incredibly talented, he’s a physical freak, and he has a motor that doesn’t quit. Not only that, but he understands the intricacies of his position. He has an array of pass rushing moves that he uses to get by would-be blockers, and more often than not, he uses the right move to get free.

Last season, as most of Raider Nation knows by now, Mack graded (per PFF) as the second best defensive player in football. Where Mack excelled the most was in run support, where he was completely dominant. He showed plenty of promise getting after the quarterback as well, and his low sack total doesn’t nearly begin to reflect how well Mack performed in his pass-rushing duties.

I know it’s only the preseason, but Mack has noticeably elevated his game.  He looks like a bigger, faster, stronger and smarter version of himself last year, and that thought is sure to keep opposing defensive coordinators and quarterbacks up at night.

Here’s Exhibit A. Raiders fans obviously know Jared Veldheer very well. Sure, he’s no all-pro, but he’s a solid left tackle and at 6’8″ 320 lbs, he’s certainly no pushover. But Khalil begs to differ.

Again versus the Cardinals, Mack throws the tight end into the ball carrier, and then rips the ball out for a fumble. He’s strong.

One last clip of Mack from this game. (Check @blackhanside‘s timeline for more). On this play, Mack bends the edge, gets held, fights through a double team, and still gets the sack. Ridiculous.

Combine Mack’s continued development with the Raiders improved front-seven, and that’s a recipe for a big season. Mack will still face plenty of double teams, but the addition of Dan Williams will pay major dividends in helping keep Khalil clean.

Also, Mack played with his hand in the dirt just about full-time last season, but making that move on a permanent basis will also help boost Mack’s sack total. His job will now be solely to wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage.

With all this being said, I think Khalil Mack leads the entire NFL in sacks this season. I’ll say he ends up with 19.

Next: Bold Prediction #2: Amari Cooper