In 2015, Khalil Mack set a new standard for the Raiders, recording 15 sacks. As a matter of fact. the five against Denver opened eyes. In the off season, the Raiders finally filled the need to get Mack some help, signing free agent linebacker Bruce Irvin. The 2016 season turned out more successful for Mack, with him garnering Defensive Player of the Year attention. With this in mind, the case for the addition of Irvin’s impact on Mack’s exceptional 2016 season is below.
Since his arrival in the NFL, Mack’s versatility is on full display every Sunday, evidenced by Pro Bowl nods at two positions. Like Mack, Irvin lines up at both the linebacker and defensive end positions, which allows the Raiders more creativity with Mack. This added wrinkle makes scheming against him difficult, especially at the end of games.
Awards:: cover32’s end-of-season awards
Nevertheless, teams continued to double team Mack, they had to account for the presence of Irvin. Mack experienced a slight decline in the number of sacks , from 15 in 2015 to 11 in 2016, but collected 5 forced fumbles, including 3 fumble recoveries. Mack enjoyed a pick-6 as well. The lack of interior pass rush and missed holding calls played a role.
Irvin’s presence took pressure off Mack. With Mario Edwards Jr. missing most of the season and Aldon Smith not remaining suspended, the need for help arose. Irvin picked up the slack, netting 7 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. To put it differently, Mack and Irvin accounted for 725 of the Raiders’ sacks (18 of 25).
Last season, Irvin and Mack developed a bond based on mutual respect and intensity. To demonstrate this, remember the alleged Week 16 sideline situation between the two players? According to Mack, this was simply a conversation between the two players. It’s truly refreshing to witness their aggressive nature.
Overall, Irvin’s honesty and natural leadership rubbed off on Mack. Now, Number 52 seems increasingly comfortable establishing his presence. In 2016, we witnessed Mack being a more vocal presence on the field, which the defense lacked.