Why do we call Oakland Raiders edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin the “Slash Bros.”?
It’s obvious that Golden State Warriors guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the “Splash Bros” for their three-point shooting. In other words, they have both been among the NBA’s leaders in three pointers.
The “Slash Bros” name was meant for Mack and Irvin sacking quarterbacks. But that doesn’t quite fit when only one of the two is known for sacking QBs.
Irvin’s career high for sacks in a season is 8.0 which he did that as a rookie in 2012 with the Seattle Seahawks. Since the Raiders signed him last year, all he’s done is make excuses for what happened in Seattle and promise Raider Nation 10.0 sacks or more.
When he first joined the Raiders, Irvin said, “I honestly felt like if I stayed in that [the Seahawks’] system, I don’t think I ever would be the player that I think I can be in this league, and that’s being a pass rusher.”
“I just want to be utilized more and get put in positions more to make plays. I really think [head coach] Jack Del Rio and [defensive coordinator] Ken Norton, Jr. are going to do a great job of really allowing me to do that.”
With Del Rio and Norton doing just that, Irvin told the media last December he will "definitely" finish the 2016 season with at least 10 sacks. When he didn’t, all he could talk about is how the Raiders needed a better interior pass rush.
It’s true that Mario Edwards Jr. was out and a good interior pass rush is needed to help edge rushers. But that’s no excuse for Irvin as good edge rushers find a way to get 10 sacks or more anyway.
Mack’s sack production dropped from 15.0 in 2015 to 11.0 in 2016 often facing double and triple teams. Irvin saw one-on-one blocking everyday and all day and didn’t get 10.
Now, he’s back to talking about his goal of a 10-sack season again this year. But his face has been on the back of a milk carton this preseason with no evidence it will happen.
It’s simply time for Irvin to put up or shut up and get out of the way.
The Seahawks may have given Irvin less opportunities to rush the passer simply because he wasn’t so good at it. He’s a good, versatile football player, but he just might not be a great pass rusher.
I’ve seen him play off-the-ball LB in Seattle and he was good at that. Perhaps with his speed and coverage ability, he could solve the Raiders woes at ILB. But as of right now, he’s getting $9.25 million a year to occupy a position which the team was better served when Mack played it.
In 2015, Mack looked like could be on pace to eventually join Lawrence Taylor as one of the most dominant SAM outside linebackers the game has seen. To go with his pass rushing, Mack could cover and destroyed tight ends in the running game.
Most running plays go to the strong side of the formation, which is where Mack lined up in 2015. And he would beat opposing TE so quickly, you couldn’t get outside or inside of him. In 2016, the ball got outside of Irvin at times, which is a major reason why the Raiders went from No. 13 against the run in 2015 to No. 23 in 2016.
But Norton inexplicably had Mack bulk up and move to LEO so he can get Irvin in at SAM. I’ve never seen a player of Mack’s caliber get moved to make room for a guy like Irvin. Mack made it work for himself, winning 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, but the run defense and the pass rush got worse as a result.
Mack will get his wherever he plays but the defense is better off when he plays the SAM. Mack was made for playing the SAM position in a a 3-4 the same way Taylor was. LEO is for guys like Aldon Smith, a long guy that is comparable to Charles Haley; the original LEO.
For this to work with Irvin at SAM for $9.25 million, he needs to get those sacks and set a better edge in the running game. If not, Mack needs to move back and continue his quest to join Taylor as the most dominant SAM ever and the Raiders should look for a LEO in the 2018 NFL Draft.