Few defensive players can blow up an opposing game plan quite like Khalil Mack, so welcome to the Week 2 challenge for the Jets on Sunday in Oakland.
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is among the top pass rushers in the game, with 26 sacks over the previous two seasons. As if the Jets didn’t have enough to worry about after their offense managed an NFL-low 214 yards in their season-opening loss to the Bills.
“There’s a lot of challenges with him. He’s probably one of the best rushers in football. We have a plan for him, definitely. He can wreck a game, so we have to make sure we account for him wherever he is at,” Jets offensive coordinator John Morton said. “It’s not just about the tackles. It’s about the running backs, it’s about the tight ends, it’s about the receivers. We have to make sure we account for him, wherever he’s at, and I think we have a really good game plan set up for that.”
Few teams have been able to slow up Mack or prevent him from altering the outcome of games since Oakland used the fifth pick in the 2014 draft on him out of the University of Buffalo.
Still, the two-time Pro Bowler faced constant double- and triple-teams and didn’t take down quarterback Marcus Mariota once in the Raiders’ 26-16 season opening victory last week over Tennessee, while making just three tackles. So you know he’ll be looking to inflict some damage against Josh McCown and the Jets’ offensive line on Sunday.
“Everybody is going to be dealing with him,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “He goes inside and outside. He runs stunts and everything else. He’s a great player. There’s nothing you can say about that. We just have to do our jobs and make sure we’re aware of where he is and try to slow him down a little bit for us to make some plays.”
The 6-2, 250-pound former linebacker lines up at times on either end of the defensive line, meaning both left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Brandon Shell will get plenty of turns trying to keep him away from the ball and/or their quarterback.
“You’ve just got to go out there and do your job, just prepare for it like you prepare for it every week,” said Shell, who is making just his fifth NFL start. “We go against great pass rushers every week. I’m not taking (anything) from him, he’s a great pass rusher, but I can’t just switch the way I do things just for one guy. I have to prepare like I do every other week.”
“But he’s very explosive, he uses his hands very good, he’s very powerful and he has speed, too. He’s like the guy that you want to rush the quarterback, he’s the ideal guy.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota fumbles the ball as he is hit by Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack.
Even the Jets’ top defensive players know this to be true about Mack, and they’ve similarly sung his praises all week.
“He gets a lot of sacks, so people look at that, but he’s not just a pass rusher. He’s making TFLs (tackles for loss), he’s making plays, and if he doesn’t make the play, he’s freeing up someone else to make a play,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “I personally think he’s probably the best defensive player in the league right now.
“I obviously am a defensive player, so I don’t like saying that. I want to compete with him and be the best guy myself. But watching him on film, he’s a great player and (I’m) just looking forward to watching him.”
FIT TO BE TYE
The Jets ruled out six players for Sunday, including starting TE Eric Tomlinson (elbow). Rookie Jordan Leggett (knee) also will not play, leaving ex-Giant Will Tye, in his second week with the team, and Neal Sterling as the tight ends.
Bowles declined to reveal whether Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty will be the backup quarterback this week, but the coach acknowledged he’d be comfortable using Petty (knee) if needed.
WR Jeremy Kerley is looking to make his season debut, but Bowles said that will be a game-time decision. Also out: LB Bruce Carter (ankle), C Jonotthan Harrison (concussion), S Rontez Miles (eye) and LB Edmond Robinson (groin).
The NFL fined LB Darron Lee $ 9,115 for a late hit on Buffalo’s Eric Wood last week.