Who's the Guy?
The absences of Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy thrust Courtland Sutton into the spotlight as the Broncos' No. 1 receiver. The extra-large pass catcher is a matchup problem for defenders on the perimeter, and Russell Wilson would be wise to target him early and often to get the passing game untracked. With Sean Payton looking to establish the Broncos' offensive identity in the season opener, the ball could head in Sutton's direction 10-plus times as the team's top offensive weapon.
Know His Name…
Javonte Williams missed most of last season with a knee injury, but the third-year pro could emerge as the straw that stirs the drink for the Broncos offense. As a power runner with exceptional vision, balance and burst, he could give Payton the RB1 that he leans on to steady the offense during any struggles. With the wily head coach also looking to alleviate some of the pressure on Wilson to carry the offense, the hard-nosed runner could get a heavy workload in the season opener.
Don't Sleep On…
Frank Clark was an under-the-radar signing in the summer, but the sack specialist could flourish in Vance Joseph's ultra-aggressive scheme. The veteran pass rush has flashed "take over the game" potential in the past, but the Broncos need him to be an impact player on a frontline that desperately needs a disruptive playmaker at the point of attack. Is Clark that guy? That's the million-dollar question for the Broncos this week.
Russell Wilson is coming off of the worst season of his NFL career, and the skeptics wonder if he can regain his Pro Bowl form under the tutelage of Payton. The veteran had a career-low 16 touchdown passes and was sacked a career-high 55 times as the leader of an offense that finished last in the league.
Matchup to Watch
Patrick Surtain vs. Davante Adams
In a battle of perennial Pro Bowlers, the Broncos'CB1 versus Raiders WR1 is a match made in heaven. As an ultra-instinctive defender with cat-like quickness and movement skills, Surtain can suffocate wideouts on the perimeter. He will attempt to limit Adams' touches utilizing a clever "cat-and-mouse" tactic where he will vary his technique to keep the All-Pro pass catcher guessing on every snap. As a savvy veteran who has seen it all throughout his NFL career, Adams will dig deep into his bag of tricks to throw the slick defender off of his game. With each playmaker capable of utilizing high IQ strategies to notch wins against elite opponents, the chess match on the perimeter will be must-see TV.
Despite his reputation as an "air it out" specialist due to his success with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, Payton is an old-school coach who builds his game plans around a punishing running game. The Broncos will look to balance out their attack to protect Wilson while showcasing a revamped offensive line and a budding star running back (Javonte Williams). If the Broncos are able to run the ball to control the tempo and set up a few big play chances for Wilson on play-action "shots," the wily playcaller may give Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham a headache with his creative, balanced approach.
Vance Joseph is an aggressive playcaller who is not afraid to test the intelligence and courage of quarterbacks with his blitz-heavy scheme. The veteran defensive assistant will challenge Jimmy Garoppolo's diagnostic skills with his clever pre-snap disguise packages and post-snap pressures that routinely produce free rushers at the point of attack. In addition, Joseph will throw extra bodies into the box to contain Josh Jacobs while maintaining a bracket or double team on Adams on critical downs. With the pressure and constant movement creating uncertainty for the quarterback and blockers, Josh McDaniels and Co. will need to be on the same page to move the ball against a talented squad and aggressive playcaller.
The Raiders hit the practice field at Intermountain Health Performance Center as they prepare for their first regular season matchup against the Denver Broncos.