It took him a few games, but Khalil Mack showed up.

The Raiders' rookie linebacker finally played like the No. 5 overall pick in the draft against the Green Bay Packers on Friday night.

In playing only the first half, Mack recorded five tackles, two for a loss, and an effective pass rush set up a sack for LaMarr Woodley. Mack capped off his night by intercepting former Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn just before halftime.

Those of us who deemed Mack a great pick and a cornerstone player for the future can breathe a sigh of relief. A short one, though, because he still has a ways to go.

But it was imperative that Mack show something in the preseason. And he did.

Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris (26) rushes for a gain as Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) chases him during the first half
Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris (26) rushes for a gain as Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) chases him during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

On Friday, Mack appeared much more comfortable. It seemed getting out of his head allowed his physical attributes to take over. His strength finally showed up, as he easily took down Packers running back James Starks in the backfield. His athleticism finally paid dividends, as he snatched a pass out of the air at the line of scrimmage.

Coming out of the University of Buffalo, it made sense that Mack would need a grace period to learn the NFL ropes. His one dominant game against Ohio State last season doesn't make up for not playing in a power conference.

But the 6-foot-3, 252-pound linebacker should be making plays with his sheer athleticism and instinct. When you're a top-five draft pick, expected to be a star, it's supposed to be hard to not make plays.


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The Raiders need Mack, who was talked about as a potential No. 1 pick before the draft, to be a franchise linebacker. He will take his lumps and make his mistakes. But he is still needed to make plays, be someone offenses have to account for.

But Mack wasn't doing that. Instead he was often lost, getting blocked too easily and generally absent.

"Khalil Mack will be just fine," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said recently.

Looks as if Allen might be right. Because the flashes we expected showed up Friday. For the first time of his infant NFL career, he looked like someone who can have an impact.

He still looked a little lost a few times, caught in between on some plays.

That's expected for a rookie. Once he got sucked in by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tossed it over Mack's head to the running back the rookie was supposed to be covering for a big gain.

But there is no shame in getting duped by the best quarterback in the game.

But Mack, this time, showed some of the toughness you want to see in your linebacker. He seemed determine not be absent again, making his presence felt as a pass rusher and run stopper.

It's a good sign that the most important game of the preseason was the one Mack showed up for. It's a good sign that just as the doubts were mounting, and the "bust" label was starting to enter the conversation, Mack responded with his best showing as a professional.

He'll need to produce at these levels consistently to justify the warm, tingly feeling that Raiders execs get when talking about their top pick. But maybe Mack will be just fine after all.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.