Posted Sat Sep 10th by Monty
Game tape analysis for the Denver Broncos‘ upcoming opponent. This week — the Oakland Raiders.
Watching preseason game tape to get ready for a regular season game is a somewhat frivolous affair. But it’s all a tape-watching fan can really be offered — as both head coaches have intimated, this isn’t 2010.
To put it bluntly, the Raiders looked pretty dreadful overall in the five quarters of preseason play I watched, but there are two important things to note there: they didn’t play Darren McFadden, and they didn’t play Darren McFadden. Darren McFadden is the type of runner that elevates the gameday performance of his blockers, receivers, and quarterback; they watch him run over tackles and the confidence of the entire team goes through the roof. Don’t take this scouting report and think the Broncos are a shoo-in.
Defensively the Raiders pose a bigger challenge, especially that defensive line. Let’s break it down.
• You’re not going to contain Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, the Raiders’ starting defensive tackles, you can only hope to manage them. And that task is going to be paramount for Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, and Chris Kuper, because, whether it was the run or pass, the Raiders’ interior d-linemen consistently made a difference. I watched Kelly impressively beat two Arizona Cardinals blockers to get to Kevin Kolb in preseason week one. None of their starters are protypical pass rushers per se, but they are very disruptive, and the Raiders blitz enough to make blocking their front four complicated.
• That’s why it’s going to be imperative for Kyle Orton to keep his eyes downfield. In preseason week three, Drew Brees was consistently dealing with a collapsing pocket. Brees was the most effective quarterback against the Raiders because, being the veteran pro that he is, he was able to keep making his reads despite the swarm of white and gold and black and silver jerseys colliding all around him. Orton needs to stand firm when Raiders defenders get close; no pre-sack self-sacking, Kyle.
• Michael Huff looks bigger. Chest, arms. The blitz-happy hard-hitting safety will need to be accounted for.
• Their linebackers are fast and good in coverage. Rolando McClain was step-for-step with Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (whom the Saints like a lot) on a slant. In week two, Vernon Davis was held to two catches for 19 yards.
• That goes for their defensive ends too – their entire front seven is, man-for-man, strong and athletic. None of them are superstars except Seymour inside perhaps, but they’re solid through and through.
• If the Broncos can settle their protection schemes, the Raiders secondary can be exposed. Chris Johnson was hurt during the preseason but should start, with Stanford Routt starting on the other side. Saints receivers had their way with Raiders defensive backs, and there’s no one that can match with Brandon Lloyd if the Broncos can pass protect.
• They lost Nnamdi Asomugha, but they drafted DeMarcus Van Dyke in the third round, who impressed me in week one, then looked hopeless in weeks two and three. In week one, for a series, Cardinals starters were facing Raiders backups, and the rookie was step-for-step with Larry Fitzgerald on several go routes. The first time, Fitzgerald made a circus catch through and off Van Dyke’s hands (“Welcome the NFL, kid”). The second time, Dyke was on top of it. In week two, 49ers WR Braylon Edwards taught him some of the intricacies of pro route running. A week later, the Saints picked on him quite a bit, and he made mistakes. If he’s out there, look for the Broncos to target the rookie.
• Seven blockers is not uncommon in the NFL, but instead of using a two tight end set, the Raiders will throw out a backup offensive lineman and a tight end. They almost always run from this formation. Not only that, but pre-snap these blockers and tight ends are very active, making it impossible for the opposing defensive line to settle down. Against a four-man front they’re then able to double-team their opponents’ defensive tackles and open some pretty remarkable holes.
• If they’re not able to double-team, the Raiders’ front five aren’t anything special.
• The Broncos are equipped to deal with this. They can allow three or even two defensive backs to handle a surprise pass out of this formation with the talent in their secondary and stack eight in the box to prepare for the run.
• Michael Bush isn’t Darren McFadden, but he’s shifty enough. He juked Saints SS Jonathan Amaya out of his sneakers in week two and displayed impressive balance in avoiding the ground a few plays earlier.
• They spread the defense horizontally in running plays and vertically in passing plays. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is unpolished, but he is fast. His hands aren’t great and his routes are kind of terrible, but if he gets behind the Broncos defense there could be trouble. (That being said, he had a perfect 30-yard catch opportunity in week three. The ball bounced off the top of his helmet.)
• They were without many of their starting wide receivers in the preseason, and that position in particular hasn’t been settled on the depth chart (a player such as Derek Hagan, who looked good in the slot and may start, isn’t even listed). Jacoby Ford was hurt in preseason but is full-go now; Louis Murphy looks like he won’t play.
• I did notice the Raiders run the no-huddle every now and then from a two-back set. They know their running attack could wear out an opponent quick.
Three Keys to the Game
1. Gap discipline This is especially paramount for the Broncos’ linebackers and SS Brian Dawkins. The Broncos’ front four are untested, so when the Raiders decide they’re going to run the ball I’m not sure there’s a lot that Broncos defensive line is going to be able to say about it. Joe Mays needs to be ready inside, and Von Miller is going to have to show he’s more than a pure pass-rusher. I’d be lying if I said run defense in general doesn’t worry me.
2. Picking up the blitz The Raiders don’t blitz often, but their front four is so disruptive that the Broncos need to be aware of Michael Huff or Kamerion Wimbley coming on a blind side blitz every other series or so. I’m looking at you, Knowshon Moreno.
3. Kyle Orton being patient and decisive Orton needs to stay in the pocket. He needs to keep his eyes downfield and be decisive with his throws. The Broncos will commit to run which should open up the pass; there will be big play opportunities if Orton can execute and just accept the fact that his pocket will be small. Don’t fall down Orton, let them tackle you.