Khalil Mack was excellent against the run and pass this season. The Raiders edge rusher generated more heat than any other in 2016, creating quarterback pressure on 95 occasions.
Mack made quarterbacks flinch despite significant attention, and was a true force on defense.
Those efforts were rewarded on Saturday night, when he was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.
Mack is the first Raider to win the award since Lester Hayes in 1980.
The honor supported two other awards, and confirms he’s a national superstar worthy of the No. 5 overall draft pick.
Mack was not in Houston at the NFL Honors awards show, to accept the award. That fits Mack’s persona, who prefers to play well without recognition.
He demands attention on the field, with an astonishing stat line.
Mack finished the 2016 season with 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception. He had 16 tackles for a loss, one off the NFL lead. According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, Mack led all edge rushers with 96 total quarterback pressures.
His best game came against Tampa Bay, when he had two sacks, two quarterback hits and seven quarterback pressures.
Mack received the most attention for a victory over Carolina, where he did almost everything. He returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half, and strip sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and recovered his own forced fumble to seal that game. Then he did something similar the next week against Buffalo, affirming he ranked among the league’s most disruptive.
Mack was a true team leader in 2016, vital factor in the team’s 12-4 record. The Raiders will sign him to a contract extension when the time is right, knowing full well that he makes their defense better.
He wasn't available for comment, but posted a response on Instagram.
I want to first thank my fellow NFL peers for this amazing honor. It’s a privilege to play against you week in and week out. To my teammates, you know I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you to Mr. Davis and Mr. McKenzie and the entire Oakland Raiders organization for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love. I want to say thank you to Raider Nation, the best fans in the world! And of course I want to thank my Mom and Dad, my family and my friends for always believing in me and allowing me to pursue my dreams. It’s truly a blessing to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year! #RN4L #DC=QB #D-Line #ByAnyMeans