Khalil Mack’s play on the field speaks volumes, but the All-Pro pass rusher remains a soft-spoken individual.
The third-year star from Buffalo is pleasant as they come, but isn’t one for loud and boisterous words. He’s a growing voice for a defense — following the retirements of Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck — that will need one, but any vocal leadership role won’t come as quickly as his explosive 15 ½ sack season last year.
“C-Wood wanted me to prepare and get ready for that role, but at the same time, just taking it day by day and slowly, slowly seeing what happens,” Mack said last month when offseason workouts began.
Contrast that against one of the defense’s new additions — Mack’s flip side pass rusher Bruce Irvin.
“They didn’t bring me here to be a follower,” Irvin said Tuesday at the Raiders’ first organized team activity. “I’m a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I’m coming to be a leader. I’m not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I am going to say it.”
These recent Raiders seem to have done a good job of bringing in the right type of leaders to help others grow. Tuck filled a good role of teaching younger players, such as Mack, the ropes. Woodson did the same in the secondary and now Sean Smith hopes to come in and fill that type of role.
Now placing Irvin on the left side of the defense with Mack on the right creates a nice balance of personalities.
“I definitely think so,” Irvin said. “In that regard and on the field, really. On the field, he is more power and I’m more of a speed guy. I think we’re a great complement to each other. I really expect us to do a lot of great things this year.”
The way this coaching staff unleashes Irvin will be interesting to watch. Last season, they emphasized that they wanted Mack coming forward way more often than he dropped back in coverage, and the result was the boost from four sacks to 15 ½.
They’ve said the same thing about Irvin and that’s what the former Seattle Seahawk is looking forward to as he begins his fifth NFL season.
“I feel like I am a versatile player and I can do a lot of different stuff,” Irvin said. “But, I would prefer to go forward more than going backwards, (like) in Seattle these last three years. So, that’s the plan and hopefully Khalil can draw double and triple teams and let me just run free and get those sacks. Like I said, we are going to keep working each and every day and keep getting better. We are going to be ready when the season gets here.”