When Raiders DE Khalil Mack turned 27 in February, some believe an imaginary clock started. For as long as people tracked football stats, age 27 is the prime of many athletes. As a result, some of these same people think that a player’s best years are behind them. Due to the rigors of the sport, football players seem to have a shorter shelf life. However, Khalil Mack could buck that trend. Here is how:
If you trace the career path of Terrell Suggs, one can hope that Mack can follow suit. Before his 27th birthday, Suggs only tallied two double-digit sack seasons in six years. Since age 27, Suggs snared five of them. While experts pine for youth off the edge, Suggs goes about his business of destroying game plan efficiently. In addition, Suggs evolves his game into become a turnover machines. Since 2009, he has forced 16 fumbles. More importantly, Suggs, at age 35 still produces at a high level. Over the last two years, his 19 sacks and 7 forced fumbles signify no signs of slowing down.
Although Reggie McKenzie tried to bolster the pass rush opposite Mack, the Raiders never hit on any long-term solutions. Instead, McKenzie seemed satisfied with veteran gambles like Aldon Smith or projects like Jihad Ward, David Bass, and Max Valles to name a few. On the other side, Mack continued to elevate his game. While the Raiders continued to struggle, Mack compiled three straight ten-plus sack seasons.
Yet, people expect Mack to get home on every single snap. Some dismiss facing double teams as just part of the job. After logging 1,015 total snaps in 2017, double or not, the need for a talented end to help Mack become paramount.
Upon Jon Gruden naming Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator, he shifted Bruce Irvin to end on a full-time basis. In that case, Mack finally gets a complementary rusher on every down. Granted, Irvin does not need to total 15 sacks. Yet, he provides offenses with a rusher capable of notching a minimum of eight to ten sacks. In addition, rookie Arden Key could see time as well. The talented yet potentially troubled key gives the Raiders another athlete upfield.
When the Raiders drafted PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst last month, it continues a trend of Reggie McKenzie searching for anyone to provide an inside rush. Mario Edwards, Jihad Ward, and Eddie Vanderdoes top the list of draft picks to try. In all honesty, only Edwards provided any hope among the three. On the other hand, he cannot stay healthy enough to see the field. On the positive side, he managed 14 games in 2017. In contrast, Vanderdoes looked underwhelming at times. However, he may get a pass, due to being a rookie, and under Ken Norton’s tutelage.
If any defensive tackle can generate consistent pressure, which forces quarterback laterally. Otherwise, passers will climb the ladder, making it more difficult for Mack.
Given these points, Khalil Mack will continue to perform at his current level. However, if they want to challenge for championships, the Raiders need to place talent around Mack. Despite popular belief, no pass rusher can operate alone and win championships