Despite their differences, the Raiders and Broncos have a lot in common. Both Qbs have something to prove, both teams are thin at receiver, both employ the zone blocking scheme, both teams boast a top notch secondary, and both teams struggled last year in stopping the run. However, the Broncos went into the draft with an entirely different approach. They drafted an Offensive Tackle in the 1st round and a Wide Receiver in the 2nd round. The Raiders, obviously went with a Running back in the 1st and traded for a Corner in the 2nd round. The Broncos were not very active in the Free Agent market while the Raiders had one of their busiest offseasons ever. The Broncos most important acquisition was insulin. Here are some matchups to watch for this week:
DT Tommy Kelly vs. LG Ben Hamilton
Tommy Kelly may have gotten a huge payday this offseason but in the 3rd and most important preseason game against the Titans, he played with the passion of an undrafted free agent trying to make this squad. If he can maintain that intensity, it will be a long day for Hamilton trying to keep him out of the backfield and out of the running lanes. On the other hand, if Hamilton controls him on the block then the Raiders thin defensive line will be on the field all day and be worn out by the end of the 3rd quarter. Kelly is really the key to keeping the Broncos from wearing down the Raiders defense and running the ball down their throats near the end of the game.
CB Stanford Routt vs. WR Brandon Stokley
It may be safe to say that the Broncos will not be trying too many long pass plays in this game. The Broncos first choice is to run the ball but after that it will be dink and dunk first downs to move the ball down the field and control the clock. They know that is where their best shot to win this game lies. Keary Colbert will line up opposite Eddie Royal as the starters with Brandon Marshall being suspended which means that Stokley will be playing in the slot; the same role in which he had so much success in Indianapolis for so many years. If Routt can keep the ball out of the hands of the slot receiver, the Broncos’ only chance will be on the ground. The Raiders’ defensive priority is to make the Broncos’ offense one dimensional. Routt is the X-factor in this.
WR Javon Walker vs. CB Champ Bailey
No one questions Javon’s passion to show the Broncos that they made a mistake in letting him go. The questions tend to be “Is he completely healthy?”, “Is he in shape?” and “Has he got enough practice time in the Raiders offense to be crisp in his routes and get open?”. Bailey knows Javon pretty well after having spent two seasons playing opposite him in practice so if Javon has any weaknesses, tendencies or bad habits, Bailey would be the first to exploit them. They will be battling it out on every play to see who wants it more and who is capable of getting it. All Javon would need is one or two of Bailey’s signature gambles and he could take it to the house. Whether or not Javon and Russell can be on the same page and take advantage of such a gamble is the real question here. They should be a lot of fun to watch…providing Walker is completely healthy.
LT Kwame Harris vs. DE Elvis Dumervil
Harris has not looked very good this offseason. He has been decent in opening lanes but terrible in pass protection. Despite the fact that the Raiders are said to be a “run first, run second, run third” team, that means nothing without the threat of the pass. If Kwame Harris cannot protect JaMarcus Russell’s blind side, the Raiders receivers will never be able to get open. The Broncos would also feel no need to drop back the Safeties knowing that Russell will have no time to throw anyway which will not only cut off the middle of the field for short passes, but also kill any chance of breaking off any substantial runs. The third, negative to this would be having to keep Zach Miller on the line to help block. Zach Miller has been the most consistent and reliable receiver for Russell and taking him out of the passing game would seriously stunt the Raiders ability to move downfield.
HC Lane Kiffin vs. HC Mike Shanahan
In Kiffin’s first meeting with Shanahan last year, it came down to the very end. At which point Shanahan pulled a veteran move by calling for a time out just before the snap of the field goal that would have won the game for the Raiders. And despite everyone in the Raider Nation watching it split the uprights, it never happened. And we all know what happened next so we will move on. Then the next week Kiffin showed he was a quick study by doing the same thing to the Browns. Then the Raiders blocked the ensuing kick to take the game. Shanahan is the longest tenured coaches in the league so there is no doubt he has Kiffin hands down with experience. The questions will be just how well Kiffin has prepared this team for this game and if he has learned more than just how to call a last second time out from Shanahan. Kiffin has essentially a first year QB and Kiffin is new enough to be unpredictable (when he doesn’t tell the media what his gameplan is). For anyone who has ever watched the World Series of Poker, you notice that the young guys always frustrate the older players because they take risks that the veterans would never take and are unconventional in their approach. There will be a grand scale poker game going on between these two. Shanahan has the experience but can he call Kiffin’s bluff?
I’m all in.