Khalil Mack is setting the standard for other pass rushers.
The Oakland Raiders star was voted the No. 1 defensive end in the NFL by an Associated Press panel, receiving seven of 11 first-place votes and a total of 101 points in the rankings released Friday.
Even other elite defenders admire Mack’s dominating style.
“Some of the stuff he was doing just can’t be done,” was the declaration by none other than Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who topped the AP’s poll for that position earlier this season. “Just pick up offensive linemen and run straight through them – that stuff, it can be done, but not the way Khalil does it.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Mack earned AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors last season and already has accumulated 34 sacks in only 53 career games in the league. He’s also superb against the run.
“A complete player who can take over a play on any down,” is the way AP’s Dave Campbell, who is based in Minnesota, described Mack.
Mack’s 30 sacks since the start of the 2015 season lead the league in that span.
“The scary thing for quarterbacks,” wrote the AP’s Dennis Waszak Jr., who is based in New York, “is he’s still only 26 and is just hitting his prime.”
In voting done by Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton and 10 AP football writers on a 10-points-to-1-point system, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans finished second. He earned two first-place votes and six for second, totaling 89 points.
Watt, who was named on 10 of 11 ballots, lost some votes because of his recent injury troubles after playing in every game over his first five NFL seasons and collecting three AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
The leader of Houston’s defense missed the last 13 games a year ago because of back surgery, then was ruled out for the rest of this season after breaking his left leg in a 42-34 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
“He was at the top of his class for so long,” said AP’s Arnie Stapleton, who is based in Denver, “but back-to-back injury-plagued seasons have dropped him a notch.”
Joey Bosa of the San Diego Chargers was third with 65 points, quite a showing for a player who has appeared in only 17 career games. He and Mack were the only two defensive ends listed on every AP ballot.
After missing the start of his rookie season, Bosa immediately showed he was nearly impossible to slow down, producing 10½ sacks in only 12 games the rest of the way.
He’s added another 4½ sacks so far this season.
“Could be near the top the next time this list is done,” said the AP’s Josh Dubow, who’s based in the Bay Area.
With such an emphasis on strong defensive line play in the NFL, particularly with an aim of disrupting quarterbacks, there is a lot of talent at DE, and the AP voting reflected that.
In all, 24 players appeared on at least one ballot.
Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings was fourth with 58 points, DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys and Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars tied for fifth, with 50, Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks was seventh with 36, Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers was eighth with 34, Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins was ninth with 18, and Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints rounded out the top 10 with 17 points.
Lawrence and Peppers received one first-place vote apiece.
Tennessee-based AP writer Teresa Walker said of Lawrence: “He’s leading the league with 8½ sacks and more are coming, the way he makes himself at home in the backfield.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – The Associated Press is ranking the top 10 players at a different position every week of the NFL season, based on votes by Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton and AP football writers Simmi Buttar, Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Howard Fendrich, Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr., and Barry Wilner. This feature will move on Fridays.
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