With a new head coach and defensive coordinator, the Oakland Raiders are making some changes in training camp, maybe the most significant of them being Khalil Mack shifting from strongside linebacker to defensive end.
Mack had a very good rookie season with four sacks as the right linebacker in the 4-3 defense. Jack del Rio, the new head coach and something of a defensive expert, along with his defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., have decided to make Mack more active in the pass rushing game.
A first round pick in 2014 out of Buffalo (5th overall), Mack has been getting a lot of time at defensive end since training camp began. Part of the base defense, sub packages and individual drills. There’s plenty of depth at outside linebacker for the Raiders, allowing them to make this transition, trying to create a problematic duo for offensive lines to deals with, having Mack playing opposite of Justin Tuck.
He’s pretty dog-gone good getting after the quarterback. He’s really good going forward, and it’s an opportunity to do a lot of different things with him. They’re going to use Khalil in all kinds of ways. That’s the way it should be. He’s a dominant defensive player, so you want to let him do what he does best. We’ll move him around and play him at different spots. That was the outlook for the defensive staff this offseason, was to put him in position to make plays.
During his rookie season, which overall was terrible for the Raiders (what season isn’t) but went pretty well for Mack, he had 76 tackles, including 16 for a loss, and a forced fumble along with four sacks and pressured the quarterback 54 times. The Raiders think he can be a lot more productive given the right position and opportunities, and if they know what they’re doing there (which often enough isn’t the case) he’s going to have a huge surge in pass rushing numbers during the 2015 season.