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Broncos have ‘had some issues with tight ends’ and will face one of NFL’s best in Oakland

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With a dearth of top wide receiver talent in Oakland, the Raiders have turned to Jared Cook as their number one target.

“He’s gone beyond what we thought he could do,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of Cook. . . “He’s certainly one of our best targets on the field right now, and he just got better throughout the season. Again, we found out that he could do a lot of things very well, much like a wide receiver. Again, he’s really a wide receiver in a tight ends body so we’re fortunate there.”

Two weeks ago the Broncos gave up an historic game to 49ers tight end George Kittle who had 7 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. Earlier this season they gave up 7 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Cook is in the same conversation as those top tight ends and poses a similar threat, having had over 100 yards two of the past three weeks and a total of four times this season.

“I think Jared Cook is as tough a cover as you have in Kelce in Kansas City and all the top tight ends in the league,” said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.

“He’s too fast for all of our linebackers and he’s probably too big for most of our safeties. We have to have a plan to definitely squeeze this guy and have a chance to bracket and keep him from hurting us. We’ve had some issues with tight ends the last couple games and we can’t afford to give him a big game on Monday night.”

The 10-year NFL veteran has already set career highs of catches (63), yards (848), and touchdowns (6) this season. He is also catching nearly 68% of the passes thrown his way — another career high. Joseph has seen the difference.

“[W]hat I’ve seen from him since he’s been in Oakland is that his ball skills have gotten so much better,” Joseph said of Cook. “He’s making the difficult catch and when you got a guy that tall and long, his catch radius becomes a lot larger, so it doesn’t have to be a perfect throw all the time for him to make the catch. That’s what I see from him. His route running and ball skills have definitely gotten better.”

The recently announced Pro Bowl alternate will was a major factor in the Raiders getting their third and biggest win of the season against the Steelers two weeks ago. They will lean on him again in the hopes of splitting the season series with the Broncos.