NAPA — Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack doesn’t get flustered easily, but Derek Carr managed to do the trick.
While Mack was speaking to a throng of reporters recently at Raiders training camp, the quarterback walked by and shouted out, “Franchise.”
“DC!,” Mack shouted back to Carr. “Really?”
Mack is beginning his second year in the NFL and is part of a defense that includes future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and two-time Pro Bowl selection Justin Tuck. But it’s clear that Mack, the No. 5 overall pick in 2014 draft, is the unit’s future.
“That guy is a freak,” said Carr, who during one recent play in practice felt the heat from Mack moments after receiving the snap.
“Usually that play doesn’t look like that from the defensive side of it,” Carr said, “but when you get a top-five pick over there, especially someone who is a top-100 player, he’s one of the best at his position, he’s going to make plays like that.”
Mack was ranked No. 49 on the NFL’s recent top-100 list that’s voted on by the players. He’s the highest rated Raider (Woodson at No. 64 is the only other on the list) and the third-highest defensive player from the AFC West.
Carr said facing Mack in practice is just like battling Kansas City’s Justin Houston and Tamba Hali or Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware — all fellow linebackers on the top-100.
Mack wasn’t quite ready to accept that type of praise.
“I’m trying to go out and be the best player I can be,” Mack said. “My name is Khalil so I want to be the best Khalil. What he says about me, I appreciate it but I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Mack backed up Carr’s compliments by referring to him as the “Foundation” and it’s true the top two picks in last year’s draft are the ones the Raiders are looking toward to lead the turnaround after 12 straight non-winning seasons.
“They’ve got a lot of growth in front of them,” coach Jack Del Rio said of Carr and Mack. “You have to work in order to have that. They’ve got great work ethic, and that gives them a chance.”
Carr showed his share of flashes while starting all 16 games as a rookie and Mack’s initial campaign saw him finish fourth on the team with 75 tackles, second with 4.0 sacks and third in the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
The Raiders hope to have him get after the quarterback more this season and he’ll see time at defensive end in some formations. He said he enjoys running around and staying busy at practice.
“I’m here to play football,” Mack said. “I love this game. I love doing the linebacker drills and the defensive line drills because it’s helping me get better. And that’s I want to do. I want to help this team be better and be great.”