Saturday, December 2, 2017

Is Khalil Mack Slumping?

By John Turney
Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Last year we saw articles such as this:
But this year. eleven games into the season last year's consensus NFL Defensive Player of the Year (AP, PFWA, SN) Khalil Mack is not making the big plays we are used to seeing:
Yes, there has been some turmoil on the Raiders defensive staff with Ken Norton, Jr. being fired and Raider newcomer John Pagano being promoted in his stead. But is that all?

From 2014 through 2016 Mack averaged double digits in both sacks and run/pass stuffs. Run/pass stuffs are tackles behind the line of scrimmage, excluding sacks. He also had 8 forced fumbles in the previous three seasons and so far has none in 2017.

Yes, there are five games left and though he can turn his personal stats around it will be too late to really help the Raiders in what was thought to be a sure playoff season. Mack can be streaky. In 2015 he had a four-game span in which he totaled 10 sacks. In 2016 he had an eight-game streak with at least one sack. Currently, he is on a two-game streak which has brought his season total to 6.5 sacks.

The Raiders defense is in the middle of the pack versus the run, and against the pass it's woeful. They are allowing a 110.0 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks and have just one interception and just 19 sacks, under two a game on average. So, the whole defense has seemingly collapsed.

The next five games are against the New York Giants at home, at Kansas City, then the Dallas Cowboys at home before traveling to Philadelphia and then returning home to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.

Mack is the epitome of an edge rusher. Though listed by the Raiders as a defensive end, he plays plenty in n 3-4 scheme as a left outside linebacker. So, for example, against Dallas, he won't see much action against Tyron Smith (Mack, does on occasion play on the right side of the defense) but will draw La'el Collins.

So, if Coach Pagano can stir up the defense and work his magic (he's been moving Mack around even more than ever) perhaps Mack can return to his All-Pro level of play. Right now, there are perhaps right players who would rank above him as edge rushers (even though the Pro Bowl doesn't use that designation). Those eight?

Calais Campbell
Joey Bosa
Yannick Ngakoue
Terrell Suggs
Jadeveon Clowney
Justin Houston
Von Miller
Melvin Ingram

So, game on Mr. Mack. Game on.

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