The offseason is for hype. Fans and players are filled with optimism about how their teams will perform in the upcoming season. Everyone's a playoff team. Then there's expecting your team to perform on the level of a Super Bowl champion.
That's what Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack sees in this Raiders defense. When he was asked in an interview with Yahoo! Sports whether he thinks this Raiders defense is capable of playing at the same level as the one that dominated the NFL last season and carried the Broncos to a Super Bowl title, he has no doubt.
"Most definitely," Mack answered. "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. 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."
There is something to what Mack preaches about the potential of the Raiders defense. You can break it down pretty easily, honestly.
The biggest star on the Broncos defense was Von Miller, who slammed the lid on a great season with 2.5 sacks against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game and another 2.5 sack performance in the Super Bowl to win MVP.
Sacking the quarterback five times in the playoffs last year was what Mack did in a single game and it was against those same Broncos in week 13. In total, Mack had 15.0 sacks, which was second in the league and earned him All Pro nods at both linebacker and defensive end. So, yeah, you could say he was at least comparable to Miller.
The Broncos also had Malik Jackson at the defensive end spot. His performance last year was that which the Raiders think Mario Edwards Jr is capable. That speaks to what Mack said about if they "max out."
Adding to the Raiders ability to "make the quarterback uncomfortable" is the addition of Bruce Irvin, the drafting of Shilique Calhoun and the eventual return of Aldon Smith.
Then, of course, you look to the Broncos secondary with two Pro Bowl corners in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. To play at that standard, the Raiders had acquired Sean Smith as a free agent from the Chiefs to start across from David Amerson who led the league last season in passes defended.
Adding Pro Bowl safety Reggie Nelson, who led the NFL with 8 interceptions last season, and top pick Karl Joseph will help as well.
I am certainly not presuming rookies like Calhoun and Joseph will instantly live up to all the hope put on them. Calhoun won't need to, being that the team has Mack and Irvin as proven players at the outside linebacker spot. And again, this is about potential and Joseph has plenty of that.
Not even the Broncos' defense this season will live up to the level of the 2015 Broncos defense due to the loss of key pieces like Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency. And even greater uncertainty at the quarterback position will most certainly affect how long the defense has to stay on the field.
Mack is right. The Raiders have the horses and all the potential to be a force in this league. Being as dominant as the Broncos were last season may be a tall order, but it's certainly not crazy.