Oakland Raiders

Raiders’ Khalil Mack cracks top 20 on NFL Network’s Top 100 list

Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack pins New York Jets running back Chris Ivory to the ground during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2015.
Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack pins New York Jets running back Chris Ivory to the ground during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2015. Associated Press file

Khalil Mack’s jump from his rookie to sophomore season was impressive, but he can still reach another level.

“Consistency,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said when asked what the next step is for his All-Pro pass rusher.

“We expect him to play at that level all the time,” Norton said. “The really good players know how to make players around them better. It can’t just be Khalil. It has to be Bruce (Irvin), it has to be all the guys up front. The group, as a whole, has to take the same leap that Khalil does. Khalil has to learn how to bring everybody with him.”

Mack’s sophomore season saw him nearly quadruple his sack total, going from four as a rookie to 15 (second best in the NFL; defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans led the league with 17.5). He earned first-team All-Pro status at two positions at both defensive end and outside linebacker, a nice bonus assisted by the fact that the team declines to define which of those interchangeable positions they consider him to play.

Mack, who will enter his third NFL season this fall for Oakland, was ranked at No. 13 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list for 2016. Mack was No. 49 on last year’s list.

He went from a promising defensive player and potential building block to a legitimate star in the conversation among the league’s best quarterback harassers, but he agrees with Norton about becoming more consistent.

“Oh yeah, most definitely,” Mack said. “Being more consistent in the pass and the run, doing all I can to help my teammates, just being a great teammate.”

Meanwhile, Mack is champing at the bit. The Raiders final organized team activity session is Thursday, following by next week’s mandatory mini-camp. Then it’s a month and a half off until training camp and the real football action begins in late July.

“Very, antsy, man, very antsy,” Mack said. “Can’t go all the way there. We’re looking forward to training camp, but we’re grinding right now.”

This year’s list kicked off with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who was No. 100. The network is nearly done with announcements, with the top 10 to be revealed on July 6 at 5 p.m.

New Raiders safety Reggie Nelson, who made the Pro Bowl last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, came in at No. 60 on the list, while 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco’s only player on the list, was introduced at No. 61.

Watt was last year’s top player.

The Bee Sports staff contributed to this report.

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