Raiders/Broncos Preview: Line Play and Secondary

Raiders DE Khalil Mack
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) reacts after sacking Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (not shown) during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When the Raiders meet the Denver Broncos Sunday, each team will look to erase a painful loss from the week before. Denver boats a potent offense and underrated run. The Raiders have their collective hands full with Denver. Rival or not, a win here sets the tone for the next few week. Cover32 Broncos Managing Editor Luke Snyder provided insight on the Broncos.

Q: Former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson is struggling, surrendering six sacks. How will the Broncos attempt to conceal this weakness in protection?

Snyder: Offensive line play is a league wide issue and it’s no different for Denver. The Broncos have given up nine sacks already. At this pace, Trevor Siemian won’t hold up for 16 games. If your Oakland, Watson is definitely who you want to attack on passing downs. It wasn’t too long ago that Khalil Mack recorded five sacks in Denver. Denver will need to help Watson out with different personnel packages including bringing in a tight end.
However, the key for Denver to slowing down both Mack and Bruce Irvin comes down to their ability to establish the run. I expect the Broncos to use the Raiders strength of getting after the passer on defense against them. Look for Denver to go after Irvin and Mack as run defenders early in the game in an attempt to slow down their pass rushing abilities. The Broncos do enter Sunday as the third best rushing offense. Expect to see Jamaal Charles more involved as well as he enters with a 5.1 yards per carry. If the Raiders are able to stop the run, it could be a long day for Siemian and company.

Q: Where does the strength of the offensive line reside?

Snyder: Center Matt Paradis remains the steady rock of the offensive line. Per Pro Football Focus, Paradis allowed zero pressure on 46 pass blocking snaps. Ronald Leary at right guard has also been an asset in the run game. Denver heavily favors running to the right behind Leary. Rookie Garrett Bolles is still developing at left tackle, but it was a huge sigh of relief to have him back a week after leaving the game on a cart.

Q: Considering Oakland’s secondary deficiencies, how will that change Denver’s passing attack? Which DB would you pick on and why?

Snyder: Denver is at its best when it’s balanced on offense. Siemian only has three 300-yard games in his early career. Instead, Denver loves to use the run to set up the pass. The involvement of Jamaal Charles could include more check downs out of the backfield. We saw last week what Chris Thomson was able to do out of the backfield against the Raiders. Charles is not the player he used to be, but there seems to still be something left in the tank. Denver’s receivers have the edge against Oakland’s secondary, but it all comes down to establishing a running game and protecting Siemian.

Q: With TJ Ward no longer a Bronco, can you detail his replacement and discuss how Ward leaving affected the defense?

Snyder: The Broncos felt comfortable enough with their youth at the position to move on from Ward. Second year man Justin Simmons has stepped up in his place. Simmons has been inconsistent to start 2017. He’s an athletic and efficient tackler but there have been several breakdowns in coverage in the last two weeks. Much of this can be attributed to communication issues that will hopefully continue to improve. In week three, Tyrod Taylor was the first quarterback to have a quarterback rating above 100 since Drew Brees in week 10 of last season. I like the Denver’s secondary to rebound at home on Sunday.

Given the Raiders sluggish performance on the road Sunday night, no offensive attack is a mismatch in their favor.

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