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Khalil Mack wins NFL Defensive Player of the Year

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HOUSTON -- Oakland Raiders star Khalil Mack, a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive end, captured his first career Defensive Player of the Year award at Saturday's NFL Honors ceremony.

With three-time winner J.J. Watt out of the picture due to back surgery, this year's race was wide open. By the later stages of the regular season, it was evident that there would be no slam-dunk choice in a field that included Giants safety Landon Collins, Broncos pass rusher Von Miller, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Mack ended up victorious by just one vote over Miller.

Although Mack started the season with just one sack in his first five games, his torrid two-month stretch from mid-October to mid-December was the most dominant of the season. Over that eight-game span, Mack terrorized opposing quarterbacks for 10 sacks, 13 QB hits, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a pick-six while the Raiders entered the playoff picture for the first time in over a decade.

Along the way, he developed a reputation for game-changing plays in tightly contested battles. Since the start of the 2015 season, his 11 fourth-quarter sacks rank first in the league.

By season's end, Mack was responsible for 44 percent of Oakland's sacks, one of the highest figures in the league. His 26 QB hits were second only to Donald's 31, per NFL Research.

More than just a pass rusher, Mack is an every-down force capable of disrupting opposing ground attacks from his edge position. That versatility helped him become the first player in NFL history selected to the Associated Press All-Pro Team at two different positions in 2015.

The Raiders selected Mack and quarterback Derek Carr with the fifth and 36th picks of the 2014 NFL Draft, reversing the organization's decade-long losing skid while providing the foundation for a perennial AFC West powerhouse. The next step is to surround the reigning Defensive Player of the Year with more blue-chip players after watching the defense surrender 6.1 yards per play -- the highest figure in franchise history.

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