One of the biggest issues for the Broncos last year was stopping the run. That issue was highlighted, put on stage, and probably should have been put on the short bus when the team played the Raiders last season.
A brief flashback:
October 24, 2010 – Raiders at Broncos. Darren McFadden was THE man to have on your fantasy team this week. He amassed 165 rushing yards on 16 carries and 3 touchdowns (He also added 2 receptions for 31 yards and 1 more touchdown). The Broncos gave up 328 rushing yards in a Raiders win 59-14.
December 19, 2010 – Broncos at Raiders. You know when that look that Michael Jordan got in his eyes when he saw a smaller defender coming off the bench to guard him? That’s the same look that the Raiders gave when they saw the Broncos run defense come to town. The Broncos gave up 119 yards to McFadden and they let Michael Bush walk into the endzone two times. The Broncos gave up 264 yards on the ground in a 39-23 Raiders win.
That’s enough with the PTSD-like flashbacks. If you fast-forward to this season, three major things have changed. The Broncos get a defensive minded head coach, they drafted an aggressive, sack hungry linebacker with the No. 2 overall pick, and they also get to reap the benefits of Elvis Dumervil’s return.
After the Broncos finished 31st in rush defense giving up 154.6 yards per game, John Fox saw where his attention needed to go. Insert new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and insert a new priority in practice.
“It’s something that we’ve stressed and emphasized all through camp and preseason games,” Fox said of his run defense. “You get what you emphasize.”
The Raiders finished 8-8 last season, up from 5-11 in 2009, thanks in large part to their running game. They ranked 2nd in yards per game (155.9).
Right off the bat, the Broncos will get to test their new and apparently improved run defense.
“This is our first regular season opportunity against a very talented run offense,” Fox said. “They’ve got a great stable of backs, a real talented group, both speed and size. They roll all three looks at you, so I think it’s going to be a great test for us for sure to start off the season.”
Elvis Dumervil plays a big part in putting the Crush back into Orange Crush.
“He gained weight, gained strength. He’s always been a very good leverage player. Even though he might be a little bit shorter in stature, he has very long arms so he can disengage on blocks. Probably his biggest improvement has been versus the run,” Fox said.
While the Raiders have fond memories of dancing into the endzone on run plays against the Broncos, this is now a team that they can’t dance around.
This a team they must power through.