To find out, I spoke with Silver and Black Pride’s Matt Holder
Fresh off a second straight embarrassing loss, the Broncos host the Las Vegas Raiders in a game that could define their season. Like Denver, the Raiders are on a two game skid after a hot start. After a 28-14 loss to the Chargers that wasn’t as close as the score, the Raiders reshuffled offensive line was torn asunder by the Chicago Bears. Derek Carr didn’t hold up to the pressure and the rebuilt defense under Gus Bradley couldn’t stop the Bears ground game, giving Justin Fields a 1-0 start to his career.
On top of the list of issues on the field, there’s no question Vegas is in disarray after Jon Gruden’s resignation because of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic emails. The Broncos will face the Raiders in the first game of the post-Gruden era, which means their opponent spent Wednesday fielding questions about the damage Chucky wrought. Two of their edge rushers and Darren Waller skipped practice because of personal reasons.
All of the chaos makes Vegas a vulnerable, but it also makes them dangerous. All the film study of the Raiders previous games show what Jon Gruden as head coach. Rich Bisaccia is a complete mystery, as the longtime assistant head coach has never held the top job. In addition, Chucky called the Raiders plays, so Vic Fangio needs to be conscientious of how the new play caller’s tendencies could throw curve balls at his defense.
To get a better handle on what’s going on with the Raiders, I reached out to Silver and Black Pride’s Matt Holder after our podcast on Tuesday.
— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) October 13, 2021
1st and 10
With Jon Gruden’s resignation on Monday, the Raiders will have a new head coach and new play caller for the Broncos game. How do you believe that will impact this matchup?
Holder: With Gruden out, offensive coordinator Greg Olson will take over the play-calling duties. The problem is, Gruden has been the mastermind of the offense over the last four years while Olson has basically been a glorified quarterbacks coach. So, to answer your question about how it will impact the game with a generic, vague and unhelpful term, a lot.
I don’t think the offense will look much different since I’d be shocked if Olson tries to reinvent the wheel during the first week of his takeover. Another Silver and Black Pride writer, Marcus Johnson, went back and watched some of Olson’s games from his time in Jacksonville and noticed the Jaguars were running a lot of play-action off of the run concepts that the Raiders like to run a lot of this year, so we could see an increase in that realm.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little worried about Olson as the offensive coordinator. He was the Raiders’ OC before and wasn’t good, but that’s also not a fair assessment because those rosters had what I like to call a serious LOFT problem – lack of [expletive]ing talent. Las Vegas’ play-caller will be a big wild card for this week’s game, no doubt.
Greg Olson is the OC and now the play caller but I think Carr will be more involved with game planning and have more autonomy at the LOS
Probably will see less personal packages and motion
Will be curious if that sort of QB ownership will be good or bad for the Raiders offense
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 12, 2021
2nd and 9
Derek Carr is better than he gets credit for, while Vegas has some really dangerous receivers in Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, and Bryan Edwards. If you were drawing up the game plan for Sunday how would you attack the Broncos pass defense?
Holder: Well, I think the Broncos’ pass rush and the Raiders’ porous offensive will play a big role in that too, so I’d like to see them come out and design some quick, short passes to Darren Waller and see how Denver responds. Derek Carr has been great this year and that’s partially been because he’s played much more aggressively than in the past, but it feels like he’s overcorrected a bit over the last couple of weeks. Now, he’s probably forcing it deep a bit too much and needs to get back to what he was doing in Weeks 1-3, which was finding a good balance between the check-downs and deep bombs.
Waller can make plays after the catch but he’s been relatively quiet recently, which is tied to Carr’s increased aggressiveness, so I think it’s important to get the team’s best player going early and often and see how the Broncos are trying to defend him. That should help Henry Ruggs get more one-on-one matchups on the outside, and as great as Denver’s secondary is, it’s hard to keep pace with a guy that runs a 4.27 40.
I’m not expecting much from Bryan Edwards this week, to be honest. Edwards has shown up big in clutch moments this year, but he’s still young and inconsistent. Plus, I think the Bronco’s defensive backs will be able to match his physicality and keep him in check on contested catches.
One Broncos player who is not getting the recognition he deserves is Bryce Callahan.
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 13, 2021
3rd and 11
After leaning on heavy personnel for the first three weeks of the year, the Broncos offense under Pat Shurmur has gone back to using 11 on roughly two thirds of the snaps. How do you feel about the Raiders pass defense as a whole, and are there any individual matchups you feel good about? Any you’re nervous about?
Holder: If I’m Pat Shurmur, I’d go back to heavy personnel and try to run the ball down Las Vegas’ throat. With Gus Bradley at the helm, the Raiders’ defense has actually become pretty good at stopping the pass, but their run defense is putrid.
The Bears didn’t do anything overly complicated on the ground last week and were down their starting running back, and still rushed for nearly 150 yards. The only player on the Raiders’ defense that I’d consider to be “good” against the run is linebacker Denzel Perryman, so if you can get up to him on the second level, you can probably average about five yards a carry on Las Vegas. Obviously, I’m very nervous about what Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon will do on Sunday.
As far as an individual matchup that I feel good about, I’d say Casey Hayward versus Courtland Sutton, and I don’t mean that as a slight to Sutton as I like him a lot as a player. Hayward is just playing like one of the best corners in the league this year, while Sutton has been up and down with a new quarterback that he seems to be still working on his chemistry with.
Another matchup in the secondary to keep an eye on is Tim Patrick versus Amik Roberston. Robertson is starting because Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette are injured, and Robertson has fared well all things considered, but he’s 5’8” and will be giving up a lot of size to Patrick. The second-year corner has been picked on against bigger and more physical pass-catchers and it’s one of those things where he does everything right in coverage, except for just being too small.
Amik Robertson is 5’9 on a good day and people can’t beat him off the line. I love it. pic.twitter.com/u99buGipBc
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 18, 2020
4th and 6
According to Pro Football Reference charting, Teddy Bridgewater’s been under pressure on 32.1% of his snaps while Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Carl Nassib are the best trio of edge rushers Denver’s faced so far. How will Gus Bradley attack the Broncos protection? What can the Broncos do to try and slow down the rush?
Holder: Honestly, there really isn’t much to Bradley’s attack. He blitzed a lot last week but that was because they were playing a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields, and most of the time, Bradley keeps it close to the vest and just likes to rush four. What really has helped the Raiders’ edge rushers more has to do with the coach’s philosophy where he’s going to have them just get up the field and rush and react to the run instead of the other way around.
The best way to slow Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue down is to chip them with running backs and tight ends, in my opinion. Part of what makes those guys so great are their get-offs, so sitting back in max protection isn’t as beneficial as hitting them when they’re not expecting it to slow down some of their initial momenta.
Maxx Crosby spins are lethal…
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 5, 2021
What’s your prediction for the game? Broncos win if…? Raiders win if…?
Holder: The Broncos win if they can get a lead early so they can place an emphasis on the running game and force the Raiders to throw deep. Pass protection and run defense are Las Vegas’ two biggest deficiencies so playing with a lead can expose both.
The Raiders win if they can stick to the short passes and force Bridgewater to beat them defensively. Von Miller will eat them alive if Carr is forced to take five- and seven-step drops, and while Bridgewater has been great this season, Las Vegas needs to play to its strengths defensively and I’ll take my chances against TBW versus letting Williams and Gordon run ramped.
This is going to be a first for me this season, but I don’t see the Raiders winning this one. There’s too much crap going on off the field right now, and on the field, I think Denver matches up very well with Las Vegas. Plus the Raiders always play terribly in Denver, so I’ll say 24-10 Broncos.