If the Raiders hope to win on Monday, they must contend with a Denver front seven that will pose an array of problems. Since before Peyton Manning, the defense always carried the Broncos. This year, the song remains the same. Under Vic Fangio, Denver hopes to continue the habit of constant disruption that became their trademark.
While veteran assistant Ed Donatell assumes the role of defensive coordinator, the job actually belongs to Vic Fangio. The Broncos will continue to run a base 3-4 defense. First and foremost, the defensive ends will flip sides, depending on down and distance. Unlike some 3-4 bases, that versatility will sit in the minds of tackles. If you are Trent Brown or Kolton Miller, you can expect to see different ends during the game.
As with most 3-4 looks, the Raiders will see three run stuffers with some, but not a great deal of pass rush ability. However, the man to watch is Derek Wolfe. With power and hustle, Wolfe surprised linemen with his ability to knife into the back field on occasion. The Raiders need to force his laterally. If he sets in on downhill, that could be a problem.
When Fangio coached Khalil Mack in Chicago, he used Mack in a myriad of ways. Chances are high that he will replicate that with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. First, while operating from their customary rush linebacker spots, each will scream upfield. In Miller, the Raiders face a Top-5 rusher with the ability to wreck the gameplan. However, like Mack, Miller excels with his hand in the dirt. Few converts speed to power better. Look for Kolton Miller to benefit from a chip. On the other, Bradley Chubb finally afford Denver the gift of a second rusher. While they tried this with Shane Ray, Chubb steps in, light years ahead. Not to mention, he converts his rush opposite to Miller. Weighing in the 275-pound range, Chubb converts power to speed, if needed.
When facing Fangio’s Broncos, the Raiders must key on Miller. If he and Chubb are play a down end, inside linebackers Josey Jewell and Todd Davis serve as outside linebackers. While the veteran Davis emerges as the known quantity, the second-year standout in Jewell, requires a deeper look. In 2018, he started nine games, playing mostly special teams. Yet, when he saw actions, Jewell capitalized, fifty-one tackles, and missing only three. If the Raiders see Jewell in coverage, this is where the ball will hopefully land.
In essence, Vic Fangio gives the Raiders a new look with familiar rivals. Expect Jon Gruden to batter the front seven with the run game. After a half of constant smashmouth football, the Broncos’ gifted edge rushers could begin to tire. Once that happens, the Raiders will look to take advantage vertically.