Over the hill. Overpaid. Overrated. Those are some of the opinions that surrounded Khalil Mack after the LA Chargers acquired the former All-Pro via trade from the Chicago Bears. Mack himself said in training camp that he would show the world just how hungry he is this season after all of this noise.
He did just that in his Chargers debut against his former team, the Las Vegas Raiders.
In a game that was won on the defensive side of the ball, Mack was perhaps the biggest standout. Not only did Mack contribute to a much-better-looking run defense, but he also exposed the Raiders' poor offensive line with his pass-rush prowess. Mack finished with three sacks in the game, including the game-clinching strip sack of Derek Carr in the fourth quarter.
If you didn't respect Khalil Mack and the Chargers defense before, you better start respecting them now.
The no. 1 emphasis for the Chargers this past offseason was to build up the defensive side of the ball after being one of the worst defenses in the league last season. The fruits of the front office's labor were in full display in this game, and ultimately were what won the game.
On top of Mack's three sacks the Chargers also recorded three interceptions in the game. Drue Tranquill and Asante Samuel Jr. came away with the first two interceptions while new signing Bryce Callahan pulled in the third. Callahan was great all game, effectively shutting down Hunter Renfrow.
Austin Johnson came up with some big plays in key moments as well. The new defensive tackle had a massive run stop on third and two in the first half and then swatted a pass at the line of scrimmage in the Raiders' last drive of the game.
And remember: the defense did all of this without J.C. Jackson, who did work out before the game but was ultimately ruled inactive.
The highlight is still Mack, who is on a redemption tour after the entire league seemingly wrote him off as no longer being an elite player. Mack is part of a much better defense in Los Angeles and is playing alongside the best defensive line teammate of his career in Joey Bosa.
Mack may not record three sacks in every single game but this game is going to go down as a sign of things to come. Expect a big year out of Khalil Mack and an even bigger year out of the LA Chargers defense.