BRONCOS

The Broncos game plan for beating the Raiders in Week 4

Oct 1, 2022, 1:42 PM
Davante Adams...
(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have a tougher matchup than some would think against a winless Las Vegas Raiders team. Yes, the Raiders are 0-3 to start the season, but they’re a talented team who is backed into a corner this week. The Raiders are at home, and their head coach Josh McDaniels (former Broncos head coach) would love nothing more than to beat the Broncos for their first wi of the 2022 season.

The Broncos are 2-1 and tied for the lead in the AFC West. That spot seems a little shaky given how bad the offense has played over three games. The Broncos’ defense is leading the way, and they may be the best in the league. However, they’re going to face a much stronger offense in Week 4 than they did in the previous three contests.

How will the Broncos attack the Raiders on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a look.

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When the Broncos Run the Ball

The Broncos’ rushing attack is confounding. Nathaniel Hackett is clear that he wants to use both Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon almost equally. He’s going to use the ‘hot hand’ appraoch, with neither back really getting a chance to get into a rhythm and get hot. Instead, there will be flashes from both and the team seems to go away from Williams or Gordon too soon.

Their rushing attack makes me frustrated, but this is what they’re going to do. Against the Raiders, they need to attack the edges of the defense on the ground. The Raiders lack discipline up front, and the Broncos can use the wide zone to create space for their backs. While at the entry point of the carry, I’d like to see the Broncos backs bounce things to the outside because big plays will be there.

In addition to Williams and Gordon, there are rumblings we could see more from Mike Boone as well. Boone is a good runner with a different style from Williams and Gordon. He’s more of a quick/speed back who can break ankles in the open field. He’s played 24 snaps on offense this year and 32 snaps on special teams in three games. Perhaps he gets a few more looks as a runner or receiver out of the backfield.

I don’t care if three backs carry the ball for the Broncos so long as they win. The toss play works against this team, so I’d like to see at least a few of those carries to attack the edges of the Raiders rush defense.

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When the Broncos Pass the Ball

The Broncos should let Russell Wilson cook. At the end of the game against the 49ers, Wilson looked like his old self. He was running the ball when he needed, and Wilson was rocking passes down the field for much-needed big gains. I’d like to see this Broncos offense finally get on track against the Raiders, and I feel that comes from Wilson doing his thing and not conforming to all that Hackett wants him to do.

Courtland Sutton is the player to watch here. He’s Wilson’s favorite, and Sutton is the player Wilson looks to when the chips are down. Sutton will get a lot of attention from the Raiders’ defense, so the Broncos may have to scheme Sutton open to get him the ball 7-10 times. If Jerry Jeudy can be a threat, that will help open things up for Sutton too.

I’d like to see the Broncos try some middle screens against the Raiders. This means Williams and Gordon could do most of their damage as receivers out of the backfield. The Raiders are susceptible to big plays from opposing tight ends, but the Broncos really don’t have a player emerging at the position. Perhaps Albert Okwuegbunam or Eric Saubert can shake free for one of those big plays we’ve seen other tight ends do against the Raiders this season.

We will see what the Broncos offensive line does on Sunday against the Raiders. To get more explosive plays, they’ll have to block better than they have all season long. In addition to some ‘moon balls from Wilson, I think screen passes will work against this overly aggressive and (at times) undisciplined Raiders’ defense.

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When the Raiders Run the Ball

If the Raiders wanted to, they could have a much more successful rushing attack. As a team, the Raiders have the No. 29 rushing attack in the NFL with just 53 carries for 240 touchdown free yards. They score on nearly 50 percent of the offensive drives they have, but the Raiders emphasize the passing attack more than they do a talented trio of running backs.

Josh Jacobs is their starter, and if featured he could be one of the top backs in the game. The former first-round pick has tremendous leg drive and determination as a runner. This makes him tough to bring down after contact, and he does a good job of pushing for as many yards as he possibly can. Jacobs can build a head of steam with burst and speed, and he’s tough to bring down when he does.

Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah get the other touches that Jacobs does not in the backfield. Both are good receiving backs, with Abdullah being the most explosive of the two. Bolden is a larger back who can grind between the tackles if Jacobs needs a breather on a short-yardage play. I even like rookie Zamir White, but the former Georgia Bulldog has barely seen the field so far as a pro.

There is a combination of backs the Raiders could use to attack the Broncos. In addition to multiple backs, the Broncos must be aware of the trick plays the Raiders will run. They’ll either use tosses to the backs or throwbacks to the wide receiver out of a run formation that is supposed to set up a deep shot down the field. McDaniels has already pulled a few trick plays out this season in three games to no avail.

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When the Raiders Pass the Ball

Derek Carr is not a great quarterback, but he’s looked great before against the Broncos. He has always done a good job of taking what the defense gives him. This season, McDaniels is having Carr stretch the field a bit more than he used to. Will the vertical passing attack work against the Broncos? That depends on if they fall for the “sucker” route.

The Raiders can run the “sucker” concept out of 3-by-1 or 2-by-2 formation. This spreads the field to run vertical seam routes by the tight end to occupy the inside linebacker. There is a dig route run on the outside where the receiver goes where the safety used to be. Usually, the slot receiver runs a curl/hitch route if/when the linebacker turns his hips to stay with the vertical route.

The Raiders have Davante Adams as their top receiver. He’s a superstar who runs full speed routes to get open. Adams can do a lot of damage on short passes that turn into long gains, or he can track deep passes effectively over his shoulder. He’s been recently frustrated as opponents are double teaming him on every play. This had led the Raiders to run some trick plays (as previously mentioned) to try and shake Adams free.

Mack Hollins has been the team’s leading receiver over the last two games. Teams are daring Hollins to beat them, and he’s getting a ton of catches, but the Raiders are winless. Opponents do not want Adams to beat them, but Hollins is sharp and can make tough catches. In addition to his speed, Hollins has incredible ‘my ball’ mentality which can be featured near the end zone on Sunday.

Tight end Darren Waller is one of the best in the game at his position. A converted wide receiver, Waller is tough to match up against. He can run crisp routes, and Waller knows how to use his large frame to box out smaller defenders. Denver’s defense is historically weak against the tight ends they face, so slowing down Waller should be a big part of their game plan.

The Broncos need to stay disciplined against a Raiders passing game that is looking for the big play. They need to keep everything in front of them and rally to the ball. If Hollins beats them from time to time, so be it. The Broncos just don’t want to let Adams or Waller have big gains that turn into big games. Contain the Raiders passing attack, and the Broncos have a good chance of winning this game.

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The Broncos game plan for beating the Raiders in Week 4