Oakland Raiders Opponent Preview: Get to Know the Denver Broncos

Dec 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is brought down by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Raiders won 15-12. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is brought down by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Raiders won 15-12. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Here is everything you need to know about the Week 9 opponent of the Oakland Raiders, the Denver Broncos.

As always, let’s go to Sun Tzu for some wise words.

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”"

Let’s get to know Oakland’s Week 9 opponent, a team fans already know quite well — the Denver Broncos.

Even though Raider Nation knows the Broncos better than most teams, it’s still a good idea to see what the 2016 version is about. What are their strengths, their weaknesses, etc.

We’ll start with the coaching staff:

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

Offensive Coordinator: Rick Dennison

Defensive Coordinator: Wade Phillips

Special Teams Coordinator: Joe DeCamillis

The 2015 NFL season was Kubiak’s first as head coach of the Broncos, and it ended in a Super Bowl championship.

Tasked with hiding the deficiencies of Peyton Manning in his final NFL season, along with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, Kubiak did a masterful job of keeping the offense afloat. Which with a defense as good as Denver had (and still has), that was all that was needed.

Which brings us to the star member of Denver’s coaching staff, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

The “Son of Bum” has long been lauded as a defensive mastermind and a brilliant coordinator. With plenty of talent at his disposal, Phillips’ 3-4 defense is a creative, destructive unit that leads the NFL in sacks while also allowing the fewest passing yards per game in the league.

Let’s take a look at Denver’s 3-4 defense:

  • DE Derek Wolfe
  • NT Sylvester Williams
  • DE Jared Crick
  • SLB Von Miller
  • ILB Brandon Marshall
  • ILB Todd Davis
  • WLB DeMarcus Ware
  • LCB Aqib Talib (out)
  • RCB Chris Harris Jr.
  • SS T.J. Ward
  • FS Darian Stewart

With Talib out, Bradley Roby is expected to take his spot on the outside. With either Kayvon Webster or Lorenzo Doss filling in at Roby’s usual spot.

Behind Miller and Ware are Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, both of whom have played well thus far in their young careers. So the Broncos have plenty of pass rushing options at their disposal.

Of course, it all starts with Von Miller.

Now in his 6th season and fresh off a six-year, $114.5M dollar contract, Von looks as good as ever. With 8.5 sacks through at the halfway point of the season, Miller is up to 68.5 in his career. This puts Miller on pace to threaten the NFL’s all-time sack record.

Thanks to all the attention Miller draws, the rest of the front-seven is able to prosper in one-on-one situations, or even given free run from time to time. And thanks to the creativity of Wade Phillips, Von even draws plenty of one-on-one matchups himself.

As a team, as mentioned above, the Broncos are tied for the league lead in sacks, with 26. Von leads the way, with Derek Wolfe next at 4.5. Shane Ray has 4, and several others have added to that total.

Wolfe is certainly not a player to be messed with. As evident as his recent admission (and his best Mike Tyson impression) of threatening to eat Philip Rivers’ children. All eight of them, I guess.

Crazy comments aside, Wolfe is a problem. He’s incredibly disruptive and he’s just as good against the run as he is rushing the passer. If the Raiders focus too much of their attention on Miller, than Wolfe will make them pay.

In the middle of the defense lies Brandon Marshall, a player many Raiders fans hope would leave Denver in favor of Silver & Black pastures in the offseason. He’s a good, but not great, linebacker, who is a quality tackler and is solid in coverage.

The second strength of this defense is with the secondary, which we already touched on a bit. Even without Talib, this secondary group is very talented. Roby is no Talib, but he still poses a difficult matchup for either Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree.

This group allows just 183.9 passing yards per game, best in the league. Oakland has the fourth ranked passing offense at 285.1 yards per game.

This Denver defense also thrives in the turnover department, and is tied for the league lead at 16. They have 8 interceptions — tied for the third highest mark in the NFL — and 8 fumbles, which is the most in the league.

As impressive as the Broncos are on defense, they do have a weakness — defending the run.

Denver allows 117.4 yards per game on the ground, which is 23rd in the league. As JBB Staff Writer Maliik Obee explained in a column, establishing the run game is the key to Oakland’s success on Sunday.

From Maalik’s column:

"Denver is No.18 in yards allowed per carry at 4.3. The Broncos have allowed six rushes of 20 or more yards (T-25th) and two of 40 or more yards (T-3rd).Oakland has rushed for 932 yards (5th), garnering 8 touchdowns (T-9th) and 9 rushes of 20 yards or more (T-2nd)."

It will be a tough test and easier said than done, but this defense can be beat.

Let’s take a look at Denver’s offense:

  • QB Trevor Siemian
  • RB Devontae Booker
  • WR Demaryius Thomas
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders
  • TE Virgil Green
  • LT Russell Okung
  • LG Max Garcia
  • C Matt Paradis
  • RG Michael Schofield
  • RT Donald Stephenson

Denver’s offense has certainly taken a few steps back from Peyton Manning’s group that once averaged 37 points per game for the entire season.

The Broncos rank 27th in total yards per game (326.4), 27th in passing yards per game (221.6), 20th in rushing yards per game (104.8) and 13th in points per game (24.3), although that last mark includes any defensive and special teams touchdowns.

Trevor Siemian has been decent in his first year as a starter, completing 61.7 percent of his passes with an average of 202.9 yards per game, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Likewise, Devontae Booker has been decent since taking over the starting job for the injured C.J. Anderson. Booker has 70 carriers for 298 yards (4.3 YPC) and 2 touchdowns, but he has also fumbled twice. Booker has no carries that have gone for more than 20 yards.

Emmanuel Sanders leads the wideouts in receptions (44), targets (75) and yards (567), but barely. Demaryius Thomas has 42 receptions on 64 targets and 535 yards. Thomas has 4 touchdowns, compared to 3 for Sanders. While Emmanuel has 6 receptions of 20 or more yards, one more than Demaryius.

Both wide receivers are known commodities, and with Sean Smith questionable for Sunday’s matchup, it becomes a more difficult task for Oakland’s defense if Smith were to miss the game.

David Amerson will presumably matchup on Demaryius, with either D.J. Hayden or T.J. Carrie being left to cover Emmanuel Sanders. That is certainly the matchup to pay attention to.

Virgil Green has always been more hype than production, and that hasn’t changed this season. Virgil has 18 catches for 150 yards and no touchdowns.

The offensive line is a weak point for Denver, as they’ve allowed 18 sacks this season — tied for the 6th highest mark in the NFL. With how well Khalil Mack has been playing as of late, this is certainly a number that could increase.

On Special Teams, the Broncos don’t have any kicks or punts returned for touchdowns. Cody Latimer typically hands the punt return duties, while Jordan Norwood returns kicks.

Brandon McManus is one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, having made 16 of his 18 attempts this season. If Denver’s offense stalls, he certainly could be a factor.

That’ll do it for the rundown on the 2016 Denver Broncos.

We’ll see you on Sunday night.

Next: Preview and Prediction: OAK vs. DEN