The Raiders’ 2014 draft class played a big role Sunday in the team’s NFL season opener.
Quarterback Derek Carr got most of the attention, but outside linebacker Khalil Mack, left guard Gabe Jackson, cornerback/returner T.J. Carrie and defensive tackle Justin Ellis also were part of the mix in the Raiders’ 19-14 loss to the Jets in New Jersey.
Mack, the Raiders’ No. 1 pick and fifth selection overall, was overshadowed by Carr, but he started, played the entire game and had five tackles and an assist.
Afterward, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said Mack had both good and bad moments – not a bad debut, overall.
Most notably, he was in on a sack with fellow linebacker Sio Moore late in the third quarter to stop a Jets drive. Though he wasn’t credited with a sack, Mack got his hands on quarterback Geno Smith’s feet just before Moore powered in to knock Smith down and jar the ball loose. The Jets recovered and kicked a field goal.
In the fourth quarter, Mack also whiffed on a tackle attempt on which Jets running back Chris Ivory broke free for a 71-yard TD run that proved to be the difference in the game.
“I thought there were some ups and downs,” Allen said of Mack’s first game. “I thought he did some good things when he was able to get a little bit of pressure. I think he was one of the guys who missed the tackle on the long run. So there were some positives, but there’s also some things that he needs to do.”
Mack played 52 of 65 defensive snaps, mostly on the side of the field with New York’s tight end. According to the Buffalo News, Mack was lined up in various spots – at defensive end in a 4-3, outside linebacker in a 3-4, at defensive tackle and nickel inside linebacker in passing situations.
So, it’s obvious defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will be putting Mack all over the field to try to make use of his speed.
“Coach JT puts me in all the right positions to make an impact on the game,” Mack told the Buffalo News.
Mack and Moore were particularly active in Sunday’s game. Though the Raiders defense as a whole was shaky – Smith and the Jets’ running attack consistently came up with big plays in key situations after the first quarter – the two young linebackers give Oakland a pair of potential impact players.
Moore led the Raiders with 11 tackles and two assists, plus the sack and two forced fumbles, one of which was recovered by Oakland.
Now that he has his debut out of the way, Mack can start working toward the Raiders’ home opener Sunday at the O.co Coliseum against the Houston Texans.
The game against the Jets, however, will stick in his mind forever.
“I was excited, man,” Mack told a reporter from Buffalo, where Mack starred in college. “How often do you get a chance to play against the best players in the world? It was an exciting moment to be here in New York and against that team and their fans. My dad and my mom and my brother came to watch.”