Khalil Mack had 15 sacks in 2015. The Raiders edge rusher had four fewer a year later but, still had his best season yet.
As head coach Jack Del Rio likes to say, pass rushers aren’t judged on sacks alone.
That number was still high at 11, but Mack was dominant against the run. He created turnovers and consistently pressured the quarterback despite a steady dose of chip blocks and double teams. A third man was occasionally assigned, as one was late against Carolina.
Mack fought through a triple team and strip sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. He recovered his own fumble and secured a Raiders victory. Then he did something similar the following week against Buffalo.
It was that type of clutch performance, in addition to all the standard metrics, that made Mack the NFL’s most dominant defensive player.
The Pro Football Writers of America agrees. The association named him the NFL’s defensive player of the year for the 2016 season by vote of their membership.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was named the PWFA’s MVP and offensive player of the year.
Mack’s award could be a preview of a big moment early next month. The NFL will honor its best at awards banquet the evening prior to the Super Bowl, and Mack could be named defensive player of the year there.
That would honor a player with excellent numbers this season. Mack had 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four passes defensed and an interception he returned for a touchdown. He also had 16 tackles for loss (one off the NFL lead) and had 96 total quarterback pressures.