The Las Vegas Raiders are set to open the 2023 season against AFC West rival, the Denver Broncos. This game is filled with storylines, including how Broncos quarterback Russell Willson and new head coach Sean Payton will work together. Mile High Report’s Ian St. Clair was kind enough to answer a few questions for Raider Nation to preview the matchup.
1) What has been the biggest difference you’ve noticed/heard about Russell Wilson this year compared to last year now that Sean Payton is around?
Wilson has fallen back to Earth. That wasn’t the case in his first year in Denver. Nathaniel Hackett treated Wilson like a god and allowed way too much leeway. Wilson was pretty much allowed to do whatever the heck he wanted. That ended the second Payton became the Broncos head coach.
Payton wants the focus on football and winning games. He also wants to let everyone know he’s in charge and what’s been allowed in the Broncos organization the last seven years will not be tolerated. It’s led to reporters on the ground at Broncos training camp and practice to say Wilson has looked the most confident he’s looked since arriving in Denver. Whether that leads to success on the field for Wilson and the Broncos offense remains to be seen, but I think we’ll see a big year from Wilson.
2) With Tim Patrick done for the year and Jerry Jeudy likely out for Week 1, what pass-catchers do you think Raiders’ fans should be worried about on Sunday?
Obviously, Courtland Sutton is the No. 1 receiver on Sunday, but Raiders fans should keep an eye on rookie Marvin Mims Jr. Payton said this week that Mims will play a role as a receiver and returner for the Broncos. We got our first taste of what Mims could do in this offense in the final preseason game when he showed off his deep-threat ability, speed and athleticism.
One of Wilson’s biggest attributes is his deep ball, and having a receiver like Mims to throw it to adds a new, potentially dangerous, element to Payton’s offense. By the way, as of Wednesday afternoon, it looks like there’s a chance Jeudy could play. I’d call it a long shot, and Payton could be playing mind games, but it looks better than it did earlier in the week.
[Editor’s note: Jeudy was not expected to play in the season opener two weeks ago but was limited in practice on Wednesday in a bit of a surprise turn of events.]
3) Right tackle has been an issue in Denver for a while and Wilson was the most-sacked quarterback in the league last year, so how much of an impact do you think free-agent signing Mike McGlinchey will make in this game?
As you mentioned, right tackle has been an issue since Super Bowl 50. That’s seven years. So it was great to see the Broncos finally go after one of the best right tackles in the NFL in McGlinchey.
In terms of the impact, it will be immediate. Wilson can trust McGlinchey will pretty much lockdown his strong side. That’s huge for the quarterback to have that in his mind. But McGlinchey will make every member of the offensive line better, namely Quinn Meinerz, the right guard. Needless to say, McGlinchey is one of the biggest free agent signings in Denver this offseason.
4) One interesting move that the Broncos made in the offseason was letting defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones walk and signing Zach Allen from the Arizona Cardinals. What does Denver’s defense lose and gain by making that swap?
Denver got better. That’s not to discredit Jones, but Allen is a more complete player and he knows Vance Joseph’s defense. Jones is a strong player, but I just feel Allen is a better fit for this defense and is the better every-down-lineman. Allen is great in run defense and he pressures the quarterback. Allen also plays with an attitude that is contagious and what the Broncos defense needs.
5) Last season, Davante Adams and Patrick Surtain II went back and forth where Adams had nine catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Surtain II in the two contests, according to Pro Football Focus. How do you think that matchup plays out this Sunday, and would you take the over or under on Adams’ receiving total at 70.5 set by DraftKings Sportsbook?
This is one of the best cornerback-receiver matchups in the NFL. As good as Adams was last season, he doesn’t have Derek Carr throwing him the ball. Instead, it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who isn’t as good of a thrower as Carr. However, Adams doesn’t need much help.
While I do think Surtain is the best cornerback in football, limiting Adams is incredibly difficult. Adams did have over 100 yards in both games last season, so I’d be shocked if he doesn’t go over that 70.5 number. However, if you want to find better value, go to Adams’ alternative receiving yards and you’ll see DraftKings has 75+ at +110. It’s a difference of 5 yards, but has much better value for basically the same number.