Riddled with question marks, it’s anyone’s guess what the Oakland Raiders defense will look like in 2017. However, the picture is much clearer for two rivals. The Broncos and Chargers went on the defensive this off-season. Denver hired Vance Joseph (defensive coordinator, Miami Dolphins) as its head coach. Los Angeles inked Gus Bradley (head coach, Jacksonville Jaguars) to captain the defense.
Supremely talented across the board defensively, the Broncos are already in fine shape in that regard. In recent years, it mattered little who was hired as head coach. Joseph, a rising star who made a name for himself as a secondary coach, has a talent-laden group to work with. That defensive backfield helps a pass rush led by Von Miller tremendously as Denver was 3rd in the league with 42.
Joseph would have to have an epic faceplant to lessen a Denver defense which ranked 4th in the league in points allowed (297) and was tops against the pass. He needs to shore up the Broncos run defense; otherwise, they’ll be just as stout.
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Landing Bradley enhances the Chargers’ young defense. Susceptible to the big play last season, L.A. brings in a Cover 3 specialist who made the Jaguars defense respectable. Bradley finds himself with young studs Jason Verrett and Joey Bosa at his disposal in L.A.
If Denver maintains its defensive prowess and Los Angeles improves, it’s bad news for Oakland’s offense. Especially with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing calling plays for the first time in the NFL. The Raiders didn’t exactly light up the Chargers and Broncos this past season under then OC (and current Broncos QB coach) Bill Musgrave. Exactly what kind of offense Downing deploys is shrouded in mystery until next season.
Also, Denver can pick Musgrave’s brain for information regarding the offense. Fortunately for Oakland, Downing’s rapport with Derek Carr is strong. Coupled with the starting QB’s fiery competitive nature, the Raiders have the potential to remain a headache for the AFC West. Ordinarily, the Chargers will predictably fade late in the season. However, Bradley gives them attitude and purpose.
They’ll work a little harder at it in 2017.