clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raiders face a tough challenge preparing for Sean Payton and new-look Broncos

McDaniels talks challenges of Week 1 preparation

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos
Sean Payton
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Putting together a game plan for Week 1 in the NFL is always a difficult task. There’s a bigger level of uncertainty about what your opponent will dial up on gameday as every team undergoes changes in the offseason and most clubs keep their play calls pretty generic during the preseason.

Something that can help make the preparation easier is playing a divisional opponent seeing as those teams faced each other twice the year before and coaches can have a better idea of how the side will choose to attack them. While the Las Vegas Raiders did draw the Denver Broncos in the season opener, head coach Josh McDaniels still won’t have that luxury as he prepares his squad for a crucial AFC West matchup.

The Broncos didn’t completely overhaul their roster from last season, but they made one very significant change in the offseason by hiring—and trading for—a new head coach in Sean Payton. Obviously, that will change how Denver decides to attack Las Vegas this Sunday compared to 2022, and the uncertainty makes McDaniels’ job more challenging.

“You can utilize a lot of tape to prepare, and there’s probably a point where you’re overdoing it and going back so far that now you’re chasing ghosts,” the Raiders’ head coach explained to reporters on Wednesday. “At some point, you got to cut that off.

“...Sean’s had a long history in this league of success everywhere he’s been and, obviously, in New Orleans. He’s a great coach. His teams are always well-prepared. They play physical and tough. They’re disciplined. They take good care of the ball. They don’t beat themselves. They’re really good at situational football. That’s what I’m expecting.”

In 15 seasons leading the New Orleans Saints, Payton posted a 152-89 (.631) regular season record, won a Super Bowl and made the playoffs nine times. His résumé is impressive, hence why the Broncos were willing to part with a first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a second-rounder in 2024 to bring him to the Mile High City.

NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
Sean Payton
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos’ new leader is also widely considered an offensive mastermind whose scheme can give defenses fits, as McDaniels pointed out during his presser.

“Sean utilizes his personnel extremely well,” McDaniels said. “He moves his players around. He uses a lot of different personnel groupings. He challenges you with formations, motions, tempo, they snap the ball pretty quickly offensively. You’ve got to be set and ready to go and know what your assignments are.

“Generally speaking, his teams execute very well. That’s what I’m anticipating. I know how good Russell Wilson is. He’s had an incredible career. And I’m expecting the absolute best version of every one of their guys on their team. It’ll be a big challenge.”

Payton is also widely expected to be the cure for the woes that plagued Wilson last season which was undoubtedly the worst performance of the quarterback’s 11-year career.

Given the uncertainty of what the other sideline will bring to the table, it sounds like the focus of the Raiders’ Week 1 game plan will be more introspective.

“I think the biggest thing for us ... is what are we going to do? And how comfortable are we with what we’re going to do in each phase of the game?” McDaniels explained on how the team is preparing for the season opener.

“Our focus will remain there this week. You go in with a certain plan and an idea of what you want to do to try to play the game. And, usually, there’s some version of an adjustment that you’re going to make based on how it’s going and what you’re seeing on the other side.”

Given that he took last season off as a coach, Payton has had a year to refine his playbook and likely will have a trick or two up his sleeve on Sunday. Hopefully, the Raiders’ approach to hone in on what they do best this week is enough to be prepared for what the Broncos throw at them.