The Raiders know they're up to something big defensively. And they're not afraid to let everyone know about it — especially their hated AFC West rivals.
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Denver is the reigining Super Bowl champion because it boasts the NFL's current most dominant defense. Oakland's best defender stirred it up this week by suggesting his team could be just as good very soon.
"If you look at that Broncos defense, they’re one of the best defenses in NFL history last year. They did a lot to make the quarterback uncomfortable," linebacker Khalil Mack told Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner this week. "We can do those types of things and still put our own little twist on it. We can be that good.
"You want it to happen right away, but we have to know that coming together takes time. We have the talent now, and we can disrupt the way they do and be that dominant if we max out and put it all together."
Of course, once the Raiders got hold of this, they wasted no time in overhyping Mack's comments and taking a shot at the Broncos at the same time.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) May 18, 2016
The @Broncos D?
It currently rules the AFC West.
"We can disrupt the way they do." https://t.co/NMmd6iB7CE pic.twitter.com/BbLpjKarS4
— NFL (@NFL) May 18, 2016
Although the Raiders needed to slow their roll in trolling the champs after finishing No. 22 in both scoring and total defense last season, Mack is astute to compare both attacks. In a copycat league with his team following the Broncos' blueprint, he should start to feel that confident.
It starts with Mack's incredible skills as both a disruptive pass rusher and devastating run defender. He's the Von Miller of Oakland, except that he's emerged as a better all-around player than Miller after only two seasons. As former NFL linebackers, coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. have maximized Mack's versatility on the second level without compromising what he offers when lining up as a 4-3 end.
But if you've paid attention to the Raiders' fruitful offseason, there are a lot more reasons they're positioned for a Broncos-like jump:
Khalil Mack (Getty Images)
The revitalized line. The Raiders jumped from No. 22 to No. 13 in run defense last season, and although much was Mack's doing, it wouldn't have been possible without free-agent acquisiton Dan Williams dominating as a run-stuffing tackle. It was bolstered in the second half with rookie second-rounder Mario Edwards coming on strong at end. The team got great news early this month when Edwards was cleared to play again after the neck injury he suffered against the Packers in Week 15. He's kind of a "Mack Light" when playing end, a composite of what Malik Jackson (now out of Denver) and Derek Wolfe offered to complement Miller.
The revamped linebackers . When Bruce Irvin was signed away from the Seahawks, there was a misconception about him just padding the pass