Oakland Raiders: Know Your Enemy - Denver Broncos
David Wilson – Jun 29, 2012
In this slow period in the off season, it gives us time to look at the Oakland Raiders' divisional rivals and how the Raiders match up against them in the 2012 season. I’m going to take a look at the Denver Broncos, because… I just don’t like them…
What has changed since last year?
Well as everybody knows, Peyton Manning decided to make Denver his franchise of choice after his departure from Indianapolis, meaning that fan favorite Tm Tebow was shipped out to the New York Jets. The Broncos added some defensive players in the draft, but no difference makers.
So, to break it down.
Denver offense vs Raider defense
Don’t believe that just because Manning is under center that the Broncos will be automatic playoff contenders like the Colts were for a decade, they won’t. Manning had success in Indy because the team was built around him and he had the offensive line to keep him upright.
Denver’s interior line is one of the worst in the league, with center J. D. Walton and guard Zane Beadles playing terribly in their sophomore years. Left tackle Ryan Clady had a down year in 2011, and right tackle Orlando Franklin has some serious issues with speed rushers. Denver took center Philip Blake in the fourth round out of Baylor, but he isn’t going to be a significant upgrade for them.
Opposite this group, the Raiders have one of the best defensive lines in the league. Both Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are premier pass rushing defensive tackles, and the front four as a whole have the ability to dominate the Broncos offensive line. The return of Matt Shaugnessy to full fitness will make them even stronger.
If you can’t win the battle in the trenches, you generally lose the game. So it will go.
There is no Tebow factor this year. Manning is immobile in the pocket, and we are likely to find out how fragile he is when these two teams meet. Denver gave up 42 sacks in 2011 with the mobile Tebow behind center, and with no upgrade on the line it won’t get any better.
Denver do not have a dominant running game or running back, and their starter Willis McGahee has hit 30 this off season. Denver has lost wide receivers Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd since last year, and it will be up to Manning to make Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas look good.
In fact outside of Manning, I don’t see anything on the Broncos offense that I like
I have felt for the last ten years that the Raiders had some real talent on defense, but were limited by scheme. They won’t be limited any more, and that predictability will be a thing of the past. We will see odd fronts, zone blitzes, and other things not seen in Oakland before.
All this will put Raider players in a position to succeed, and even with Manning in the mix, for me the Raiders clearly have the edge. Dominance at the line of scrimmage, and imaginative defense will get it done for Oakland.
Raider offense vs Denver defense
Oakland will start the year with a healthy Darren McFadden, and having had Carson Palmer put in a full off season of work. They are big advantages as McFadden and Palmer were never on the field at the same time last year, and together should be a force. Oakland has young talent and big play ability at wide receiver, and an improved offensive line.
There is no proven playmaker at tight end, but otherwise I really like this group.
Denver have lost their second best defensive player in Broderick Bunkley, who was a rock against the run. Whilst I like their second round pick Derek Wolfe, he isn’t going to be Bunkley by any means, and is a little undersized for a tackle.
The best weapons Denver has are on the outside with pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
I give Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer the edge over Dumervil, but on the right side, tackle Khalif Barnes is going to need some help with Miller. Miller is an elite player in every phase of the game, and has to be constantly accounted for.
On the whole though, I have not seen any improvement in the Broncos, and the loss of Bunkley will hurt them badly.
So again, I see the Raiders winning the battle in the trenches.
Whilst I believe Oakland will be better offensively than 2011, Denver has lost their defensive coordinator, (Dennis Allen, new Raiders Head Coach) and one of their best players. I haven’t seen them put much back in terms of talent.
The fact that Allen knows the Broncos defensive personnel inside out certainly counts for something in 2012, just like it did for John Gruden against the Raiders in Superbowl XXXVII.
The Raiders have probably the best special teams grouping in the NFL. Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski are simply the best players at their respective positions in the league, and Jacoby Ford is an elite level kick returner.
Denver has an average kicker in Britton Colquitt, but a top level punter in Matt Prater.
Even given some dodgy coverage on punt return units last year, Oakland has an advantage in these phases of the game and that isn’t going to change.
John Elway has shown to be exactly what he is, an ex quarterback who thinks because he has played the game at a high level then he can somehow be a successful general manager.
He hasn’t put in the time learning his craft like Reggie McKenzie has, he just decided that he could do it. That has meant poor draft selection and an inability to put a cohesive team together. He has also traded away Tim Tebow, the only reason that the Broncos made the playoffs last year.
Quote me on it, the Raiders sweep this series and put Peyton Manning where he belongs, on the retirement list.
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