With time, free agency, and injuries, NFL defenses change yearly. The Denver Broncos are no exception. When the Las Vegas Raiders welcome them to Allegiant Stadium, they will see a few familiar faces. Yet, several new foes and potential headaches will also lineup across from them on defense. Granted, we’re a long way from the championship defense of years past. However, at all three levels will see potential nightmares.
The Miller Void
Perennial rival and elite pass rusher Von Miller will watch from the sideline, due to injury. Miler suffered a season-ending ankle tendon injury. Do yourselves a favor and do not Google the description. With his absence, Denver leans on others to shoulder the load and responsibility of generating a quality pass rush. Bradley Chubb assumes the mantle of the main rusher. After going sackless in the first three contests, he rebounded with 5.5 sacks over his last five games. Chubb wins with explosion despite his size. When he gets off the snap, that long first stride causes problems for many tackles to recover. Additionally, Chubb stays behind his pads during the bull rush. The Raiders need to account for him, regardless of down and distance, as he makes plays in the run game.
Like Chubb, Malik Reed seems to have found his stride. The former undrafted free agent saw his snaps increase. As a result, the Nevada product tallied five sacks and six TFL in his last five games. Unlike Chubb, Reed uses arm length, and speed to win versus tackles. Reed attempts to keep tackles off his frame with a sturdy long arm, allowing him to shed and make the play. Now, the Raiders do employ a mammoth offensive line. As a result, if they lock on to Reed with their girth behind the block, he will struggle to be any sort of a factor.
In years past, the Broncos always appeared to utilize speedy but undersized linebackers to make plays in the 3-4. Now, they deploy to solidly-built inside backers in an attempt to stymie the run and give up little in the passing game. Neither Josey Jewell nor Alexander Johnson may ring any bells outside of Colorado. Yet, what they accomplish on a weekly basis is to make sound decisions. While neither present as splashy, each excel in tackling. Johnson and Jewell have combined for five missed tackles. In comparison, Cory Littleton alone has missed fifteen. Johnson and Jewell also perform admirably in the passing game. Granted, the Raiders will complete an extraordinarily high percentage of passes against them. However, neither surrendered a passing touchdown. Expect heavy doses of Darren Waller to test them early.
Excellent Player, Wild Numbers
Rightfully so, free safety Justin Simmons casts a long shadow in the Broncos secondary. The All-Pro, over the last two-plus seasons, boasts ten interceptions and twenty-four pass deflections. In the middle of his prime, Simmons displays excellent range and sound tackling. Now, here’s the odd stat point. So far, in 2020, Simmons surrendered seven touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. Despite that, Derek Carr needs to know where Simmons is at all times, while still attacking vertically. A player like Henry Ruggs looms large here. by targeting him early, Simmons must account for the speed.
In all honesty, the Denver defense will get home and make tackles. On the other hand, behind an aggressive approach and continued solid blocking, the Raiders should be able to move the ball.