BRONCOS

The game plan for the Broncos to beat the Raiders and Josh McDaniels

Nov 18, 2022, 4:48 PM
Josh McDaniels...
(Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos are in the midst of what looks like a lost season. There’s still a chance they could turn things around, go on a two-game win streak and try to build momentum. However, that seems like a distant possibility the way things went after the bye in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans.

The Broncos are 3-6, returning home to play the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Nathaniel Hackett looks like a bad NFL head coach in his first time on the job. Raiders coach Josh McDaniels looks like an even worse coach, and this is his second crack at it. Both teams are at the bottom of the barrel in the NFL, and a win could quiet some of the talk about either head coach getting fired.

The Raiders have an offense that can go toe-to-toe with any opponent in the league. They have a defense that makes any opponent look better on offense. The Broncos have an offense that is laughably bad. They also have a defense that is among the best in the league. Which good side for each team stands out? Which bad side for each team costs them the game? We’ll find out on Sunday.

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

I wish the Broncos ran the ball more. This offense should feature the rushing attack first and foremost, and then the Broncos should pass off of that. The Broncos try using a “hot hand” approach with Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, and Chase Edmonds. The problem is, the Broncos don’t run the ball enough to do much of anything with any of thosee three backs.

Running the ball up the gut will work against the Raiders. Even if the Broncos insist on running out of the shotgun, attacking the middle of the Raiders defense is their soft spot. All three running backs for the Broncos can win at this point of the field, but they’ll have to do it in different ways.

Murray is the strongest runner, and he’s a power-gap runner to boot. That’s perfect for those gap plays up the gut where the Broncos offensive line can attack after the snap. Gordon can attack the middle, but his running style is a bit tentative since he doesn’t want to fumble the ball anymore. If Edmonds gets the ball up the gut, I think using him on draw plays would work magnificently.

The “hot hand” approach doesn’t work when nobody gets enough carries to actually see their play ignite on the field. Let’s hope the Broncos finally get it right and run the ball early and often – up the gut against the Raiders will work.

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When the Broncos Pass the Ball

Jerry Jeudy hasn’t practiced all week, so it’s looking like Courtland Sutton could get more work once again. He’s a favorite target of Russell Wilson, but the two haven’t always been on the same page this year. The Broncos need to use in-breaking routes with Sutton when they’re between the 20s. Sutton is huge and knows how to use his frame to box out defenders. He can break in, see the ball, and keep the defender from getting to the ball. Do that in between the 20s and then toss those jump balls to him in the red zone.

Outside of Sutton, we should see more from Kendall Hinton and Jalen Virgil. Hinton is Mr. Reliable and I seem to tweet every week that any team in the NFL would want a guy like Hinton on the roster. He’s steady and a consistent target for Wilson who will come back to the ball when his quarterback is in trouble. Virgil caught the first pass of his pro career, a 66-yard touchdown against the Titans off an audible by Wilson. He’s an explosive player who can take the top off the defense, but Virgil is more than a speed guy. Virgil has moves and strength after the catch, which helps him as a receiver and a return man (hint, Dwayne Stukes).

I’d also like to see more from rookie tight end Greg Dulcich. He was targeted a few times against the Titans last week, but Dulcich did not know how to sit down in a zone. Because the rookie kept running his routes when he should’ve stopped short, it looks to the casual observer like a bad pass from Wilson. Instead, that’s on the rookie and he needs to learn coverages and where his veteran quarterback likes to put the ball against a zone. Dulcich can do it, but it will just take time to get there.

I like the reserve receivers for the Broncos, and I hope we get to see a balanced mix of Sutton, Virgil, and Dulcich on Sunday.

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When the Raiders Run the Ball

The last time these two teams played, Raiders starting running back Josh Jacobs ran all over the Broncos defense. He had 28 carries for a then career-high 144 yards rushing against the Broncos earlier this year. Jacobs will no doubt be where the Raiders want to start with this game plan.

Jacobs is a big-bodied back who can live between the tackles. He’s not going to fool you with dancing or moves in the backfield or the open field. Instead, Jacobs is going to be intent and charge forward through would-be tacklers. Without inside linebacker Jonas Griffith, the Broncos second level will be tested. They need to meet Jacobs in the hole and prevent him from building a head of steam.

Denver was able to shut down Derrick Henry, holding him to 53 yards in Week 10. They’ll need a similar effort against Jacobs to give themselves the best chance to win. While slowing down or stuffing Jacobs though, the Broncos will have a more dangerous passing attack to deal with than what the Titans were able to put on the field against them last Sunday.

We’ll see if they can do a better job of slowing down Jacobs this week. If they can’t stop Jacobs, the Raiders will win simply by running it up the gut and wearing down this magnificent Broncos defense in Week 11.

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When the Raiders Pass the Ball

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is doing everything he can this year. He’s frustrated with the way things are going with McDaniels as everyone thought things would be better for him this season. Instead, Carr is putting up the yards and points, but the team is not holding onto the lead (see their porous defense).

Carr’s favorite target is his college teammate Davante Adams. He’s been a superstar wide receiver for years with Green Bay, and Adams came to the Raiders this offseason with big hopes of taking his game to an even higher level with his former Fresno State teammate. Instead, Adams and Carr are doing pretty much what Aaron Rodgers and Adams did. Adams is a force to be dealt with, and the Broncos should task second-year cornerback Patrick Surtain on him again. Last time out, Surtain covered Adams on a majority of his routes.

When the team doesn’t go to Adams, expect wide receiver Mack Hollins to get work against the Broncos. Hollins is feisty, and he’s got speed to get by defenders quickly. Rookie corner Damarri Mathis is good, but he has shown rookie struggles this year. Hollins will be a problem for the defenders not named Surtain on Sunday. The Raiders won’t have tight end Darren Waller, so that means Foster Moreau – not a bad tight end himself – will get more opportunity against Denver. As we saw last week with Titans rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, the Broncos still have trouble guarding athletic tight ends down the seam.

Surtain is great, but he will be tested by Adams on Sunday. The Raiders will try to move Adams around and get him on a linebacker if they can. When that happens, the Broncos need to be ready to make a play.

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The game plan for the Broncos to beat the Raiders and Josh McDaniels