ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack regularly gives a speech before Raiders games. Teammates huddle around him as he revs up his guys, detailing the importance of quality play and victory over the opposition.
The Raiders must do so, Mack often says, by any means.
You can finish his phrase. By any means necessary.
The effort and desire is always there on game day. Required execution, however, is not.
The Raiders defense has been a disappointment through six weeks, the league’s worst in yards allowed and pass defense and yards per play They’re 30th in points allowed, a number that could’ve been worse without solid third-down defense and turnovers.
Defensive wrongdoing was covered by four quality wins. It’s back in the crosshairs after Sunday’s disastrous undressing by rival Kansas City. Figuring out why defense underwhelms has been a talking point in recent days.
Discussing it will only do so much. He wants to see improvement on tape.
“You can talk about it all day. Until we do it, it’s irrelevant,” Mack said Tuesday. “I focus on action. I want to see guys go out and attack practice tomorrow like it’s their last. Do the same thing Thursday, get on a plane Friday and put good things on film on Sunday.”
That hasn’t happened often enough, and continuing these performances could prevent the Raiders from reaching lofty goals.
“We haven’t played well enough, but the good thing is that you get a chance to redeem yourself and get the bad taste out of your mouth.”
The next opportunity comes Sunday against the host Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 29th in total offense and haven’t run a lick.
They might be aided by the Kansas City game tape. The Chiefs dismantled the Raiders with rushing off the edge and through younger interior linemen. Misdirection, bootlegs and counters have been among the biggest defensive issues, in addition to forcing safeties into difficult and at times errant decisions that create favorable matchups.
“You can tell teams are using things that challenge your discipline,” Mack said. “Those are the things that are beating us. ...It's our job to respond.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio has cited eye violations and communication issues, but tackling and covering well are also concerns. He insists mistakes are correctable, especially in regard to proper communication (and reads).
“That’s an area that I can just tell you, that’s one of the areas when that cleans up, it’s going to alleviate a lot of issues that we’re having,” Del Rio said. “That’s why I remain very confident in this football team and our ability to grow as the year goes on. There are young players, and that’s not an alibi, that’s just reality. I think as they gain confidence, they’ll continue to grow and our communication will be better and better.”
While the Raiders try to operate as a cohesive unit, a band aid would be welcome. Many fans look to Khalil Mack as a savior off the edge, an elite player capable of blowing up any play at any time. That potential certainly exists, and people expect it often from the All-Pro.
Fans want more, more, more, but Mack laughs off the idea that outside expectations infiltrate, even during troubling times like these. There is no added pressure, no drive to press. Mack knows better than to do anything like that. He doesn’t care about numbers, anyway. He cares about getting wins – the Raiders are 4-2, by the way – by any means.
“It’s only expected if somebody says something,” Mack said. “What they don’t see is that it’s a team game. It’s not about just one person. That’s the big picture, and it’s what I’m focused on. Playing good team football.”
Mack wants to see results, not discuss what they could or should be.
“It’s going to take more than talking about it,” Mack said. “I want to see what cats do on film, what they do on Sunday. That’s all it’s really about with me.”