While the Raiders defense has vastly improved from last season, the one factor they still need to work on is consistently stopping the run.
The Silver and Black defense is 25th in the league in rushing yards allowed and 27th in rushing touchdowns allowed. They'll have another difficult task ahead in stopping the Broncos' run attack lead by Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon III. So far this season, Gordon has run for 282 yards and two touchdowns, averaging nearly five yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is very familiar with Gordon, as they were on the Chargers together for three seasons. On Thursday, Bradley told the media that Gordon is playing at a level he's never seen him at before.
"I think he's playing his best football," said Bradley. "I don't know if he's leaned up. He just looks faster, playing with a great deal of confidence right now, whether he's fresher or what, but it shows up on tape. I've always been impressed with him, working beside him, but you feel him on tape now. He's very fast, good instincts, can you make you miss in the open field, so that's a really good combination in their backs."
The Raiders must also turn their attention to Gordon's backup Javonte Williams, their 2021 second-round pick who has also run for over 200 yards this season, as Gordon is questionable to play.
2. Perryman bringing the heat
In regards to stopping the Broncos' run attack, Denzel Perryman will be imperative for the defense. The linebacker that was traded to the Raiders before the start of the regular season has been exceptional.
Right now, Perryman is second in the NFL in total tackles (60) and is the league leader in solo tackles (39). The former Miami Hurricane has been playing some of his best football in his career and will need to continue to do so with several injuries to key players on defense. Starting nose tackleJohnathan Hankins is doubtful, defensive linemanQuinton Jefferson is questionable and cornerbacksTrayvon Mullen Jr. and Damon Arnette were placed on IR last week.
3. Ways to halt Miller Time
Von Miller is back. And the Raiders offense is going to have to deal with him.
Fortunately, Greg Olson should have a few tricks up his sleeve. The offensive coordinator will take over play-calling duties this week and will give the Broncos defense as many looks and sets as possible to take them off their game. Bradley stated Thursday that one of Olson's best attributes as a coach is "how he utilizes personnel." That will come in handy against 11-year veteran Von Miller, who's seen it all and done it all.
"That's our philosophy as an offensive staff, things that look the same that are different," said Olson. "How do we make it look the same to the defense? What we did last week, how is that going to look the same to them yet have a different spin off of it? A lot of times it's not rocket science, but there is an art to that and we're fortunate that we feel like we have, again, very strong skill positions.
"The tight ends, the running backs and the wide receivers that we can mix and match and use different personnel groupings, as Gus alluded to, and to keep them off balance that way and yet keep the concept somewhat basic and simple."
4. Don't act brand new
Even with a different play caller,Derek Carr and his offense shouldn't lose a step.
Carr has had Olson as his offensive coordinator with the Raiders for five seasons – including Carr's rookie season in 2014. That season, in which Olson was the play caller, Carr threw for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns, leading all rookie quarterbacks in both of those statistics.
"Obviously, I was part of the organization that drafted him and then as I left here, I still remained in contact with Derek and obviously have a lot of respect for the way his career has unfolded," said Olson. "A ton of respect for him now that I've got a chance to be with him again. It's a personal as well as business relationship and I think that's important in that role that I've had with him and that role that we'll have going forward."
5. Denver's a good place for No. 83
Not trying to live in the past, but we can't discount Darren Waller's historic game the last time he played in Denver.
In last season's Week 17 matchup against the Broncos, Waller broke the Raiders' season reception record that was held by Hall of Famer Tim Brown since 1997. In that game, Waller had nine catches for 117 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion that ultimately won the game.
"I'm definitely grateful for this moment, but I don't want this to be my greatest day as a Raider," Waller said after breaking the record. "I want us to keep going, and I want our team to have great days as well and just to keep going from here. So I feel that this is definitely a great thing, but I want to keep going."
The Pro Bowl tight end has certainly kept it going this season, leading the Raiders in targets (48) and tied at first for receptions (28) and receiving touchdowns (two).
6. Who will be the better first-half team?
It's no secret the Raiders offense has started games slow this season, however, they'll be facing a Denver Broncos team that has had the same issue.
The Broncos – like the Raiders – have not scored a touchdown in the first quarter of their last two games. Denver also has a reputation of getting going on offense in the second half, so it will be fun to see who can set the tempo early.
As the Raiders prepare for their Week 6 matchup against the Denver Broncos, view past matchups between the Silver and Black and their division rival.