Back in 2001, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan had 22½ sacks to break the NFL single-season record of Mark Gastineau of the Jets, who had 22 in 1984.
Since Strahan’s monster season that record has been threatened several times. Jared Allen (2011) and Justin Houston (2014) had 22 sacks. And J.J. Watt reached 20½ in both 2012 and 2014.
The Strahan record came with a bit of controversy, because his last sack came in the final game of the season, when Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre looked as if he took a dive as Strahan approached him. Over the years, Strahan has said he regrets that many remember only his final sack rather than his season as a whole.
“I just hate that it got caught up in the wash of the record-breaking sack,” Strahan said of the Favre incident on the NFL Network in 2013. But he said it shouldn’t overshadow his 2001 season.
“I didn’t have a sack in the first three weeks of the season,” Strahan said. “So from four weeks on, (it was) 13 games, 22½ sacks. That’s hard to match, and I’ve never spoken about it, because I’ve always kind of taken it, but I always have to say, ‘If you don’t like it, then break it.’ ”
The player who might do just that is wearing silver and black.
Defensive end-outside linebacker Khalil Mack is coming off a 15-sack season in Year 2 of his professional career. As a rookie, the former standout defender at Buffalo had just four sacks. But under new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and head coach Jack Del Rio, Mack was moved all around the defensive front to create mismatches and put him in the best position to rush the passer. Now that the Raiders have brought in another pass-rush specialist, Bruce Irvin, to put on the opposite side of the line, and re-signed deluxe pass rusher Aldon Smith (who will be able to play the second half of the season), Mack could be in position to top that 15-sack total.
After all, he didn’t record a sack in the first two or the final two games of the season, so his 15 sacks came in 12 games, including a five-sack flurry against the Broncos in December. He can get them in bunches.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr believes Mack is ready for a record-breaking season.
“I think he’s going to sack the quarterback 30 times,” said Carr recently in a Sirius XM Radio show with Adam Schein of the NFL Network. Added Carr: “Watch the tape. He’s held every play. He’s like nobody else in the league. He’s talented.”