The last two NFL sack kings -- J.J. Watt (17.5 in 2015) and Justin Houston (22 in '14) -- are currently on the PUP list, recovering from offseason surgical procedures. While Watt is expected to return to the field before Houston, both prolific sack artists carry question marks as we head into the 2016 campaign.
Still, in a passing league, there are plenty of sacks to be had. And we've already heard some eye-opening forecasts around some of the league's elite pass rushers ...
All of this begs the question: Who will lead the NFL in sacks this season?
Yes, Mack will feel the absence created by the suspension of Aldon Smith. But the Raiders also signed outside linebacker Bruce Irvin in free agency and he will be excited to have more pass-rushing opportunities than he found in Seattle.
In other words, Mack should be even scarier this coming fall.
But, since we don't know how Watt's health will be entering the season, I will pick Kahlil Mack. He has shown steady improvement as a player and pass rusher since his career started in Oakland. Mack will be helped by the addition of
Bruce Irvin on the other side, especially on passing downs. The other thing that will help him: I expect the offense to continue its improvement behind
Derek Carr. This will put the defense in a position to have more pass-rushing opportunities because the opposition will be playing from behind.
In the past, the
Vikings have been in a lot of close games, so the defense hasn't been able to attack. Now that the
Vikings are going to be playing against teams that are chasing points, Griffen will have more opportunities to get after the passer.