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Scouting the Broncos ahead of Raiders week two match-up in Denver

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This week the Raiders head to Denver to face their bitter division rival Broncos coming off a 27-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in their first game of the season.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Familiar Faces in Rival Places

Former Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is in his second year as the offensive coordinator for the Broncos and is already on his second starting quarterback. Musgrave is a solid OC and puts the Broncos offense in position to make plays.

In their season opener against the Seahawks this Broncos team employed nearly a perfect 50/50 run versus pass play call while amassing 470 total yards. They ran the ball 32 times for 146 yards, and they passed the football 39 times completing 25 passes for 329 yards. Not too shabby.

The Offense

Case Keenum is the new face under center for the Denver Broncos in a move that showed the complete lack of faith in former top pick QB Paxton Lynch.

Despite a career year in which the journeyman veteran led the team to the NFC Championship game, the Vikings made an executive decision to sign Kirk Cousins and let Keenum walk.

Keenum was hot and cold against the Seahawks. He completed 25 of 39 passes for 329 yards and 3 TD’s against a Ken Norton Jr. led Seahawk defense. He also threw 3 INT’s against that Norton led defense. You know, the same guy who was fired after his Raiders defense set a record by going 10 weeks without an interception. Not such an accomplishment, even if it was the great Earl Thomas III, fresh off a camp holdout and with just a week of practice under his belt.

The safeties will have numerous opportunities to step in front of wide receivers and steal passes, because one thing Keenum doesn’t do well is look off the safety. He has a habit of locking in on his receivers and makes his intentions with the football known.

Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have been the Broncos receiver duo since 2014. Last season wasn’t particularly productive up to either of their standards. Much of that had to do with stopgap QB Trevor Siemian throwing them the ball.

Against the Seahawks, Sanders caught 10 passes for 135 yards including a beautiful catch and sideline toe tap combined with 43 yard run, capped off with a front flip into the end zone for a touchdown. Thomas, didn’t miss out on the party as he came down with six receptions for 63 yards and TD.

The receivers will be a factor that the Raiders must have a plan for. A route tactician in Sanders, a big physical monster in Thomas, along with talented rookie Courtland Sutton. The Raiders have the defensive backs to match up well with the Broncos. What will be imperative once again is the Raiders linebacking corp be quick to cover curl to flats. Also worth noting, Musgrave loves to draw up passing plays against cover-2 defense. Choosing to launch attacks on the safeties by forcing them to make a hi-lo decision.

Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are a young prototypical thunder and lightning combination. The 5’8”, 190-pound Lindsay is the scat back who took a 19-yard screen pass to the house last week. He also split carries with the 6’, 229-pound Freeman. They ran for the exact same carries and yards 17 times for 51 yards (4.7 ypc). These two backs will be featured and ran early as well as often. Musgrave is a believer in using the run to set up the pass.

It’s always Miller time on defense

I don’t know how Von Miller didn’t win AFC Defensive player of the week. He sacked the Russell Wilson 3 times, caused 2 fumbles, and danced all over the Seahawks backfield. Miller is the unquestioned leader of this defense and they will go as he goes.

Fifth overall pick Bradley Chubb showed promise but they ask him to drop back in coverage and he really shouldn’t. Chubb wasn’t asked to do much pass coverage at NC State, but he is now. Chubb has all the talent in the world and it would provide the Broncos with the luxury of two dominant edge rushers at a fraction of the price of $141/M with $90/M guaranteed. I’m just saying.

The defensive backfield was once the most dominant unit in all of football. Now they are a shell of their former selves much like the now former Legion of Boom. Chris Harris Jr. is a great corner who gives receivers fits, Bradley Roby is a question mark, to be honest. He needs to have a good season now that he’s in the spotlight and no longer the third guy. Adding wily veteran Adam ‘Pac Man’ Jones is a risky move that could help pay off. Russell Wilson, in between running for his life, and avoiding pass rushers was able to complete 19 passes for 298 yards 3 TD’s and 2 INT’s.

The Gameplan

Opportunities for Derek Carr and Amari Cooper to reunite and reform AC/DC will be plentiful. The Broncos gave up touchdown passes of 51 yards to Tyler Lockett, 15 yards to Will Dissly (3 catches 105 yards 1 TD, from a primarily blocking tight end), and 20 yards to 34-year-old Brandon Marshall. To handicap Wilson further, Doug Baldwin his favorite target was injured early in the first half and did not return.

Head coach Jon Gruden has called out his quarterback and let it be known early he won’t be handling missed opportunity with kid gloves. An educated guess would suggest that Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and recently re-signed Martavis Bryant will get many looks this week.

Dissly was targeted five times, catching three passes; one for a touchdown, one that narrowly missed, and another. Jared Cook is coming off a career night and a franchise record-setting performance, could this be part deux? Should the Broncos commit Brandon Marshall the linebacker to help the safety, it will further compromise a run defense which has been suspect as of late.

The run game was abandoned early against the Rams, it was abandoned and Carr was without the threat of a play-action pass nearly all game. Lynch and the offensive line came out cracking pads and taking it to the Rams early, then it just went away. This offensive line must impose their will on the Broncos’ defense and maintain the edge in time of possession which won’t be an easy task.