Raiders v. Broncos Preview: Jon Gruden And Co. Look To Start Off Season Strong Despite Drama

The past few days have been some of the most surprising in NFL history, let alone in Oakland Raiders history. While the focus should be on the Raiders season opener against the Denver Broncos, Antonio Brown has dominated headlines.

In perhaps the most bizarre turn of events, Brown has forced himself out of Oakland and across the nation to join the New England Patriots. Brown was a consistent distraction throughout the Raiders offseason due to a number of issues.

The Raiders organization, personnel and fans are certainly all shell shocked. Although Brown’s departure only happened days prior, it is time to leave him in the past. His strange saga continues separately from Oakland and the 2019 season is finally here.

Although the focus during Monday night’s season opener against the Denver Broncos will largely be on Brown, the Raiders will have to work hard to overcome their peculiar circumstances.

To do that, they will need to come together as a team and rally behind the leadership of quarterback Derek Carr and head coach Jon Gruden. While the game will largely be composed of first looks for fans and the team, there are certain things that the Raiders need to execute on immediately.

Most importantly, the Raiders need to protect Carr. The Raiders’ quarterback was sacked 51 times last year, third-most in the NFL. The Raiders offensive line has undergone some changes this offseason and will hopefully be able to protect Carr. In particular, Kolton Miller will need to prove his value as a left tackle as Trent Brown is expected to hold things down on the other side.

Miller started every game as a rookie last year and will continue starting at left tackle this season. Miller has reportedly put on some muscle thanks to strong offseason workouts. Although the left tackle is undoubtedly the more important position when it comes to protecting the quarterback, the Raiders have some strength on the right side as well.

After signing Brown, Gruden decided he would be better utilized on the right side. Between Brown and Miller, Carr should be able to get plenty of passes off. Of course, that is if Broncos linebacker Von Miller allows that.

Miller has consistently been one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers. Despite turning 30 earlier this year, Miller put up his second-best single-season total in sacks with 14.5 in 2018.

Despite Miller’s continued excellence, the Broncos had a mediocre defense last year. Although they added cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Kareem Jackson, the biggest defense addition for the Broncos this offseason was head coach Vic Fangio.

For the Raiders to have success against Fangio, they will have to do it through the air. Of course, that will be easier said than done as the Raiders wideouts are largely role players.

Recently-acquired receiver Tyrell Williams will likely be a favorite target of Carr’s as he has had strong seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers the last few years. Additionally, do not be surprised if rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow gets his number called early and often.

Every team also needs a steady running game as well though and the Raiders will turn to rookie Josh Jacobs. The first-round pick has performed well in the offseason and training camp to earn the starting job. The Broncos had a mediocre rush defense last year, so Jacobs should be able to do some damage.

While the offense will most likely take time to grow over the season, the Raiders defensive line is the next major component that needs to function near flawlessly.

Their first test will be taking on new Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco. Of course, Flacco has been an NFL great and currently sits 22nd on the NFL’s all-time passing yards leaderboard, so slowing him down should be easier said than done.

The Raiders will also need to stop Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay. In his rookie season last year, Lindsay totaled 1,037 rushing yards, good for ninth-best in the league and second-best among rookies. The Raiders allowed the third-most rushing yards last season, but new additions to the defensive line should help to limit that.

In particular, rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell should be able to help limit Lindsay and get to Flacco. The Raiders also added some toughness in linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who along with Ferrell should be able to scare opposing offenses.

Not to mention cornerback Gareon Conley, who took a great leap last year. After a slow rookie season, mostly remaining on the injured reserved list, he excelled in 15 games last season, grabbing three interceptions.

All in all, the Raiders really will need to focus on the game. With distractions surrounding the entire organization, it will not be easy, but once they hit the field the time for drama is over.

Although this game against a division rival will mean a lot to the team, they need to take this entire season one game at a time. With such a young team surrounded in turmoil, each game is a stepping stone and a learning experience. If the Raiders can come together as a unit and take advantage of the defense, in particular, this season could still be a success.

The post Raiders v. Broncos Preview: Jon Gruden And Co. Look To Start Off Season Strong Despite Drama appeared first on Raiders Nation.