True Test: Denver DC Woods leads Denver Defense Against Oakland

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Raiders Rival: Denver DC Joe Woods
Aug 26, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders head to Denver for their first AFC West game against the Broncos. They’ll look to rebound after last week’s embarrassment on Sunday Night Football. Once again, the Raiders offense will face a well coached defensive unit that utilizes a 3-4 primary defense.

Background

Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods is in his 14th season of coaching and first as defensive coordinator in Denver. Previously, Woods worked as the defensive coordinator for the Broncos, Vikings, Buccaneers and even the Raiders.

Woods coached seven players to 12 total Pro Bowl selections. He’s lead three top pass defenses included the last two in Denver. He’s credited with the development of Xavier Rhodes and Cedric Griffin. Outside of the Pro Bowlers he’s coaching in Denver, he’s worked with great corners like Antoine Winfield, Ronde Barber and Charles Woodson. He served on the defensive coaching staff under Jason Tarver with the Silver and Black.

Strengths

Woods is a former defensive backs coach, so it should not come as a surprise that the Broncos’ strength is in the secondary. Between Pro Bowlers Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart and Chris Harris Jr. This is a physical group that will look to frustrate the Raiders receivers after they struggled last week. Denver has been number one against the pass the past two seasons and they’re running a similar scheme that the Raiders have seen in recent years.

As of now, the Broncos are in the middle of the pack with 7 sacks. That ties them for seventeeth in the league which is partly due to Shane Ray being injured. Regardless, Von Miller could change that sack ranking in any given game. Especially since the Raiders just allowed four sacks to the Washington Redskins.

Expect the Broncos to lean on their edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Miller much like Washington utilized Junior Galette and Ryan Kerrigan. Washington’s pressure from the stand up ends helped free Preston Smith and Jarrad Allen who both got sacks too. Therefore, Denver will probably expect Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis to get some chances at Carr too. Rookie DeMarcus Walker should get some run too in passing situations. Oakland has a real test versus Denver’s No. 4 passing defense and No. 1 running defense.

Weaknesses

The Denver Broncos don’t have a ton of defensive weaknesses. Woods brings a resume that includes work in 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. Broncos head coach Vance Joseph also has experience with multiple fronts too so the Raiders will see some of that but Oakland has been seeing that every week this year.

The last time the Raiders beat the Broncos in 2016, Derek Carr threw for less than 200 yards. Again, not much has changed in Denver so expect the Raiders to lean on the run again. In that matchup, Latavius Murray rushed for more than 100 yards. This year Oakland will need Marshawn Lynch to have a similar breakout game. Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will be critical to neutralizing the pass rush of Denver.

The Raiders beat Denver last season because they ran the ball effectively. This year, the Broncos added Domata Peko and Athyba Rubin, who should and have improved efforts against the run.

Scheme wise, the Raiders offense does not need to do anything different considering they’ve played different variations of the 3-4 defense in the first three weeks. They need to execute and try to establish the run game early. They need their receivers to re-gain some confidence versus a physical and confident Denver safety. That won’t be easy so expect some early screens and deep shots to try and take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Broncos. The Raiders need to lean on their tight ends in this matchup. Ultimately, the Raiders face their strongest offensive test yet and their success depends on their execution.

 


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