Stephenson a Bronco in part because of Mack

ENGLEWOOD - Donald Stephenson is a Denver Bronco because of this upcoming game against the Oakland Raiders.

“Really? You think?’’ Stephenson told a 9NEWS reporter at his locker Friday. “I better play well, then.’’

The Broncos are counting on it. They had defeated the Raiders eight consecutive games until Khalil Mack beat them last December at soon-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Mack, a defensive end, had five sacks, all in the second half, in the Raiders’ surprising 15-12 win against the Broncos. He beat right tackle Michael Schofield for four sacks and left tackle Ryan Harris for one. Mack isn't going anywhere. As the top defensive player on the resurgent Raiders, Mack will be taking on the rival Broncos twice a year.

Thus, a big reason why the Broncos fortified their offensive tackle positions with Stephenson and Russell Okung. 

In fairness to Schofield, it didn’t help that Brock Osweiler was still in his hang-on-to-the-ball-a-tad-too-long development as the Broncos’ quarterback. Osweiler has since moved on to Houston and Schofield has moved inside to right guard, where he has played well this season.

Stephenson was signed away from the Kansas City Chiefs with a three-year, $14 million contract that pays him $6 million this year.

“He’s definitely a great player,’’ Stephenson said of Mack. “It won’t be the first time I took him on. It’s a battle every time. We’ll see.’’

Mack and Stephenson’s Chiefs met four times in two previous seasons. Stephenson was the backup to Harris in 2014, when the rookie Mack didn’t have a sack in either game.

Funny how they come and go in the NFL. The Broncos let Harris go to free agency and Pittsburgh after last season and brought in the guy who backed him up two years ago.

Stephenson was returning from injury and also didn’t start in a December, 2015 game when Mack had two sacks. But Stephenson was out there starting at right tackle in the 2015 finale for the Chiefs and he held Mack sackless.

Mack got off to a slow start this season, getting zero sacks through his first three games and one through his first five, but he has four in his last three games.

Unlike Broncos star pass rusher Von Miller, who gets a few more sacks off speed than power – but employs both -- Mack uses a different style.

“He’s a little bit of both, but he’s more powerful than he is speed,’’ Stephenson said. “He has deceptive speed. But he’s so powerful he doesn’t need to use his speed a lot. He’d rather go through his guy.’’

Mack got off to a slow start this season, getting zero sacks through his first three games and one through his first five, but he has four in his last three games.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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