ALAMEDA (AP) — Khalil Mack has done just about everything the Oakland Raiders have asked of him his rookie season.
He has solidified the run defense with his ability to fight off blocks and get into the backfield, pressured quarterbacks consistently as a pass rusher and forced offenses to alter their game plans.
The only thing lacking so far from Mack is something he was supposed to get frequently: a quarterback sack. Through seven games, Mack is still seeking his first sack despite being compared to pass rushing specialist Von Miller when he was drafted fifth overall in May.
“It’s something that’s kind of sitting on my mind,” Mack said. “All my teammates talk about it. It will come soon enough but even then I’m working hard to get there.”
Mack has come awfully close, especially in recent weeks. He has been credited with 15 quarterback hurries and hits the past three games, according to Pro Football Focus, and his 22 pressures for the season are the most for any player without a sack.
The consistent pressure is bound to lead to sacks soon enough.
“They will come,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “Keep pressuring the heck out of them, making sure everybody knows who you are and where is 52 and that stuff will happen. As long as he’s around the ball, we’re happy.”
While Mack has lacked sacks, he has not lacked praise. Opposing quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Brian Hoyer singled him out after the past two games for his stellar play.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson called him a spectacular player who was playing like the defensive rookie of the year heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.
“He jumps off the film,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Every one of our coaches, when they break up and start looking at the Raiders and taking seriously what they’re doing well, everybody comes back talking about him. He’s almost unblockable and he’s got a great motor. He’s fast, he’s tough, he’s instinctive. We think he’s an obvious factor.”
Mack played down the wide-spread praise he has received in recent weeks, saying it means nothing until the Raiders (0-7) have more success on the field.
“It’s gratifying in a personal aspect but you want to go out and win the game,” he said. “It can mean something once you stamp a win. But we’re still working on that win. All you see out there is hunger for a win.”
Mack has been dominant against the run, where he is the biggest reason for a dramatic turnaround in recent weeks by the Raiders. Oakland has allowed just 2.9 yards per carry in October, second to Denver for the NFL lead.
Mack is tied with Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David for the NFL lead with 8 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage against the run, including 5 1/2 the past two weeks.
“He’s going to be measured in whether or not he sacks the quarterback, but I would just say that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody do that in the run game,” interim coach Tony Sparano said. “What he did in the run game to an opponent, this guy Khalil has just really dominated.”
NOTES: CB Carlos Rogers (knee) did not practice for a second straight day with a knee injury and his status is unknown for Sunday. ... TE David Ausberry (foot), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring) and WR Kenbrell Thompkins (personal issues) also did not practice.