Scouting Jets defensive lineman Isaiah Mack

Earlier this month, the Jets claimed defensive lineman Isaiah Mack to their practice squad. Today, we break down Mack in detail.

The 26-year old Mack is listed at 6’1” and 299 pounds and was undrafted out of Chattanooga in 2019. Mack has played in 25 games in his career, starting one, and recording 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He has only played in four games since 2020 though.

Background

Mack wasn’t a sought-after high school recruit, eventually committing to Chattanooga where he redshirted his first season. As a redshirt freshman, he started the last eight games and was productive with 54 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

He took his game to the next level in his sophomore year, with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He was named as a second-team all-Southern Conference selection in his redshirt junior season despite having a career-low 1.5 sacks, but his final season was easily his best as he was named as an FCS All-American. He racked up career highs in tackles (78) and sacks (8.5) in that 2018 season.

Mack was regarded as a long-shot to be drafted but helped his case with a strong week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, showcasing some disruptive pass rushing in the game itself. He also had a strong pro day, but was unselected in the 2019 draft and signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent.

As a rookie in 2019, Mack made the Titans’ roster and played in 13 games, starting one. He had eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. He hasn’t had many chances since then though.

In 2020, he made six more appearances with the Titans but then was waived and claimed by New England for whom he played twice.

He was in training camp with Denver in 2021 but released in final cuts, then spent five weeks on the Steelers‘ practice squad before finally signing with the Ravens on their practice squad. He played in two late season games, recording one sack.

In 2022, he again played twice for Baltimore, having been released in the final cuts and placed on the practice squad. At the end of the season, he spent two weeks with Seattle, but did not play.

The Jets claimed him on postseason waivers from the Seahawks even though he is out of contract at the end of the season. As an exclusive rights free agent, they hold his rights and can offer him a minimum salary deal though.

Now let’s take a look at what Mack brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Mack has a big body and is a good athlete but lacks length. He ran a sub-5.0 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day with above average explosiveness and agility numbers. He also posted 25 bench press reps.

Usage

Mack is a defensive tackle who primarily lines up in the B-gap, although he has lined up outside or at the nose tackle position from time to time.

Interestingly, the Ravens and Seahawks both listed him as a nose tackle and may have been developing him specifically for that role, perhaps due to his lack of length.

Motor

Mack is a player who keeps fighting in the trenches and will give a good effort in pursuit. Note how he keeps working despite dealing with multiple blockers on this play:


Pass rush

Mack is a disruptive pass rusher who had 21 sacks in his college career and has posted good pressure numbers at the NFL level in preseason and regular season action.

He has a nice combination of quickness and power which he shows off on this sack as he leverages his way around the guard:


In addition, Mack has proven to be a good finisher who can be effective when he is employed on stunts:


Run defense

While Mack is a player who has always been regarded as someone with pass rushing potential, he is also capable of using his athletic ability to make some impressive plays against the run.

Here’s a play where he shows impressive power to penetrate against three-time all-pro Quenton Nelson to draw a hold:


On this fourth down play in the fourth quarter of a close game, he worked his way down the line laterally to clean up:


Here’s a play where he does a good job of shedding his blocker to fill a running lane to make the stop.


The main concern about Mack against the run is that when employed inside, he won’t have the strength to hold up against double teams.


Footwork/Technique

Mack shows some signs of good technique both against the run and when rushing the passer. Here’s a play where he shows good quickness to jab step outside and then rush inside, coupling this with a well-timed slap down on the guard’s hands to prevent him from slowing him down:


When his pad level is low and he gains a leverage advantage, Mack can flash dominance at the point of attack:


Special teams

Mack hasn’t made any big special teams plays in his career so far. He has primarily just been used on field goal defense, although he’s rushed punts a few times and was sometimes used in punt protection in college.

Tackling

Mack was a productive tackler in college, with over 200 tackles in his career. He was also among the school’s all-time leaders with 41 tackles for loss.

While Mack’s short arms can sometimes cause him to miss arm tackles, he doesn’t actually miss many tackles. Here’s one after he hustled 40 yards downfield on a running play:


Coverage

Mack has only dropped into coverage a couple of times at the NFL level and hasn’t deflected any passes, although he was credited with two pass break-ups in his final year in college.

Instincts/Intelligence

Since entering the league, Mack has sought to keep improving by learning about NFL defensive systems and picking up tips about pass rushing and run defense from his teammates.

Mack, who was twice on the academic honor roll while in college, hasn’t jumped offside or made any obvious mental errors at the NFL level. His only penalty was for illegal hands to the face.

Attitude/Demeanor

Mack is a hard-working player whose consistent effort was praised by his college coaches, who also referred to him as selfless. He was said to be the kind of player who will “bring it every day”. He doesn’t appear to have any character flags or off-field issues.

Injuries

Mack seems to have avoided any injuries so far in his career. He played in 48 games in four years in college and has only ever missed games at the NFL level as a healthy scratch (other than a short stint on Covid-19 reserve).

Scheme Fit

Mack’s style of play would seem suited to an attacking rotational defensive tackle role in the team’s current defense as long as he can show he can hold up against the run. He might even be well suited to a role in their pass rush packages.

Of players under contract with the Jets in 2023, he has been a teammate of Corey Davis and Diontae Spencer in the past.

Conclusions

Mack, assuming they tender him as an exclusive rights free agent (which they must be planning to do otherwise claiming him makes no sense) will be an interesting player to bring to camp in 2023.

He obviously showed some good potential in the past but struggled to find a good fit after an encouraging rookie year. Is he a situational rusher? Should he work on his strength and convert to nose tackle? These are questions the Jets can seek to answer once they’ve had a chance to work with him in the offseason program.

With three of the Jets’ four-man defensive tackle rotation out of contract at the end of the season, the Jets will be looking to see if anyone can step up and establish themselves as a cheap depth option. While he hasn’t shown much over the past few seasons, Mack will be trying to impress the coaches and make the most of this chance.

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