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Sideline to Sideline: Q&A with Broncos lead writer Aric DiLalla

The Raiders and Broncos square off Sunday in a matchup where both teams are looking to start the season off strong.

Before the game gets underway, we reached out to Denver Broncos lead writer Aric DiLalla to get an insider's look at the opposing team.

Q: Where is the overall confidence of the Broncos heading into the season opener?

AD: I'd describe it as a quiet confidence. Denver's approach this offseason was to work in relative silence, and we haven't heard the same sort of proclamations that were common leading into 2022. Since Sean Payton arrived in Denver, the team has simply worked — and dialed down the hype and need to win the offseason. That doesn't mean the players don't believe in themselves and their abilities, but it's definitely been a more low-key approach this year.

Q: What is the expectation for Russell Wilson in Year 2 in Denver?

AD: That's the big question, right? He's slimmed down and seems to be more mobile than he was a year ago, which translated to scoring drives in his preseason action. Add in Payton's prowess as a game planner and play-caller, and this offense should put Wilson in position to succeed. I don't think there's much question that Wilson and the Broncos offense will be better than a year ago when the team ranked 32nd in scoring, but it's all about the extent to which they improve. I'm not sure it's clear yet just how big of a jump the unit will take, and that's part of what makes the opening game intriguing.

Q: What do you think is the biggest focus for the Broncos when going up against the Raiders this week?

AD: I think it's two-fold, as the focus has to be on slowing both Josh Jacobs and Maxx Crosby. I don't have to tell you about the success those two players have had against Denver during their careers — and the Broncos are well aware of it, too. On offense, I'll be interested to see how Payton approaches the matchup from a play-calling and play-design standpoint. Defensively, I think it's more about effort and getting all 11 guys to the ball to slow Jacobs.

Q: Who is a player (or players) who might be an X-factor in Sunday's matchup?

AD: I'll go with rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. As I'm typing this, Jerry Jeudy's status for this weekend remains unclear, and the Broncos are already without wide receiver Tim Patrick, who suffered a season-ending injury in Training Camp. Mims missed the early stages of camp, but his speed has been evident since he returned from injury. He made a big impact in the Broncos' final preseason game, and he's the type of player that could make a big play that swings the game. He's also penciled in as the Broncos' starting punt and kick returner, so his decision-making and fielding ability will be critical to Denver's chances on special teams.

Q: How has Sean Payton changed the culture of the team over the offseason?

AD: I mentioned his focus on work rather than hype, and I think that came along with a sense of accountability and discipline that may have been missing a year ago. The Broncos have had a grueling Training Camp, and they're hoping it instills a sense of toughness that will translate well to the season. Late last year, Interim Head Coach Jerry Rosburg introduced a similar approach in the final two weeks of the season, and it led to a near victory at Arrowhead and a season-ending win over the Chargers. I think the hope is that the Broncos can find similar success in 2023 with a renewed emphasis on that culture of toughness, accountability and discipline.

As the Raiders prepare for their Week 1 matchup against the Denver Broncos, view past matchups between the Silver and Black and their division rival.

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