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Breaking down the Raiders defense

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --There is no quintessential Khalil Mack play that encapsulates his rookie season to date. The Raiders' first-round rookie linebacker can't be bottled and packaged like that.

But what his bursts of dominance reveal is that the overwhelming athleticism, preternatural quickness off the snap and savage blend of speed and bulk that propelled him to near the top of this year's draft class were not products of playing in the Mid-American Conference, and that his 2.5-sack, pick-six game against Ohio State to open his senior season was not a fluke.

He is the real deal, and the complete package. Never mind that he remains in search of his first pro sack; he's close, with five quarterback hits and a Raiders-leading 23 pressures, according to

"He hasn't had a sack yet, but he might lead the league in holding penalties as far as versus him," said Broncos Head Coach John Fox. "So he's problematic.

But he might be the best run-defending linebacker in the game right now. His quickness and speed off the snap, as well as his ability to change direction and defuse stretch plays from the backside, have pushed him to 10 tackles for losses this season, including five in Oakland's last three games.

Like Von Miller, the Raiders have the option to move Mack around. He typically lines up at strong-side linebacker, and rushes from the outside. Most of his big plays against the run in the first eight games were at the expense of tight ends, including New England's Rob Gronkowski, who could not react fast enough to Mack's jump off the snap and ceded penetration.

Oakland can use him as a down lineman, as well. On one play against the New York Jets, he lined up at left defensive end, waited for the Jets offensive line to flow away from him, and, like a cobra, struck on the backside, catching up to Chris Johnson for a 1-yard loss.

The following week against Houston, he got pressure on one play by making an inside move on Houston tackle Duane Brown. What was impressive was how Mack got his hands inside Brown, and then bounced off him with barely a loss of forward speed.

"He is manhandling people out there sometimes," said Oakland safety Charles Woodson. "It's great to watch him. I think he's only going to get better."

If you love football, you love watching Mack's film -- as long as it's not against your team. Your eyes immediately focus on him.

"He continues to get better every week," Woodson said. "The most impressive thing is that you watch him on film, he jumps out at you. He definitely does."

And there's no doubt that when the Broncos get set before the snap in Oakland on Sunday, their eyes will focus on No. 52, to know where he is. Limiting his effectiveness will be the primary task for the blocking scheme.

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