|National Football League|
What a rush as Mack, Raiders visit Miller, Broncos
DENVER -- Von Miller and Khalil Mack, two of the NFL's elite pass rushers, won't be able to sneak up on anyone Sunday.
The Denver Broncos are working overtime on protection schemes to try to blunt Mack's impact. Ditto the Oakland Raiders in their bid to slow down Miller.
Mack, last season's Defensive Player of the Year, has seven sacks in six career games against the Broncos, including a memorable five-sack effort in December 2015. He'll be facing a revamped Broncos' offensive line that includes rookie Garett Bolles at left tackle and Menelik Watson, a former Raider, at right tackle.
While the Broncos (2-1) have shown solid improvement overall as an offense, particularly in the effectiveness of their running game, their pass protection has shown some vulnerability. Quarterback Trevor Siemian has been sacked nine times in three games and ensuring he remains upright enough to effectively run the Denver attack means containing Mack.
"That's a huge issue in this league -- blocking speed rushers every week," Denver coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously, Mack is a special player. With that being said, we have a game-plan to block Mack. It won't just on those guys to block him one-on-one all the time. Again, you can't help both guys. From time to time, they have to do their job and block him one-on-one. It's two-fold. Schematically, we have to help those guys from time to time and the player has to play against that guy one-on-one from time to time."
For his part, Siemian said he'll be on the lookout for Mack as well -- at all times.
"I'll just say, you know where he is every time you break the huddle," Siemian said. "You're not going to miss him and he's not going to sneak up on you. If No. 52 is on the right side or he's on the left side, you know where he's going to be. He'll get a lot of attention."
It has helped, Siemian said, that he has practiced daily against Miller, a Super Bowl MVP and an equally disruptive force as Mack.
"They're different players obviously," Siemian said. "All of our edge guys, that's an advantage for us. In camp it was just feeling that pressure. Now they're not hitting us, but you have to navigate the pocket a little bit, move around, slide and you feel those guys. It's a different beast when you're playing live and especially (playing) a guy like Khalil Mack."
Mack and Miller come into Sunday's contest between the AFC West rivals at the top of their game. Mack has recorded two sacks and Miller three, along with plenty of hurries and quarterback hits from both not to mention the intimidation factor each brings by their mere presence on the field.
"He's one of the best to ever play the game," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said of Miller. "The way he can come off the ball, kind of like our man Khalil, the way (Miller) can get off the ball, time the snap count, it's freakish. He's an amazing player."
Working in the Raiders favor, though, is one of the top offensive lines in the game, anchored by star tackle Donald Penn.
"I have a really good offensive line," Carr said. "I don't have to worry about them."
Both teams enter Sunday's game looking to rebound from their first losses of the season.
Denver lost 26-16 at Buffalo while the Raiders went down at Washington 27-10.
Denver beat the Raiders 24-6 in their last meeting. The Broncos' upset victory in last season's regular-season finale denied the Raiders the AFC West title, sending them into the postseason as a wild card where they lost in the first round.
"It's always in the back of your mind," Mack said of the outcome of the teams' last meeting. "But at the same time, it's a new year. It's a new year, a new group of guys and we're looking forward to coming in and trying to win a game."
On the injury front, the Raiders could be without cornerback Gareon Conley who missed practice this week because of a shin injury. Wide receivers Amari Cooper (knee) and Michael Crabtree (chest), safety Keith McGill III ( foot) and Jalen Richard (calf) were limited at times in practice this week.
For the Broncos, cornerback Bradley Roby has missed practice time because of an ankle injury. Wide receiver Cody Latimer (knee) and cornerback Brendan Langley (knee) participated in practice at times in a limited fashion this week.
Updated September 28, 2017