Midweek Musings: Round Two With The Raiders

Hello, Bronco fans! Just have a few things to go over about this week’s game with the Raiders and some other things to consider.

* The biggest difference between the Raiders team now versus the one the Broncos first played in Oakland is the Raiders defense has lost a couple of key players. Aldon Smith, of course, has been suspended for a year for violating the substance abuse policy. Per Pro Football Reference, Smith played 88 percent of Oakland’s defensive snaps in the Week 5 matchup. He was credited with four tackles and half a sack.

Also gone is defensive end Justin Tuck, who tore his pectoral muscle in the Week 5 game. Before the injury, Tuck played 64 percent of the defensive snaps and had one tackle. Linebacker Neiron Ball, who played 62 percent of the defensive snaps and 35 percent of the special teams play, is out for the season with a knee injury he received against San Diego Oct. 25.

One player who did not play against Denver but has seen more recent game action is safety Nate Allen. However, he is dealing with a knee injury and did not practice Wednesday.

As for injury reports for this week, the Raiders have not had center Rodney Hudson for the past two weeks because of an ankle injury. He did not practice Wednesday. Two others who appeared on the injury report were Khalil Mack and Charles Woodson, but it looks like they will play Sunday.

The Raiders losing three players who saw many defensive snaps means you can expect some different looks from the defense, and not just because Brock Osweiler is under center. I really hope the Broncos take advantage of the screen game this week because, as I said earlier in the season, that’s where they can play against the Raiders’ biggest weakness.

* As for the Raiders’ offense, if Hudson can’t go, the offensive line takes a big hit. That could open the door for a bigger day for the Broncos’ pass rush than it had when the two teams met in Week 5. Remember that the Broncos got four sacks on Derek Carr the last time the two teams met, and that was with Hudson in the lineup and DeMarcus Ware leaving the game early because of his back injury.

* On the Broncos’ side, the good news is that Vernon Davis returned to practice Thursday, meaning he has cleared concussion protocol. (Players may observe practice while in the protocol, but they can’t do any physical activity.) Sylvester Williams remained limited, while David Bruton did some light jogging. Perhaps Bruton’s injury isn’t as serious as initially thought, but I’m still not counting on him playing Sunday.

As for other players, Danny Trevathan did not practice, so he remains in concussion protocol. T.J. Ward didn’t practice, either, but I figured he’d miss at least two games and it’s best to get him healthy for upcoming games. Meanwhile, Ronnie Hillman got more work while C.J. Anderson watched practice. Shane Ray didn’t practice, either, but as of this writing, none of the Broncos beat reporters have tweeted anything about what happened to him. I’ll update when they do.

But while it’s true the Broncos have a lot of guys who are banged up, the same applies to the Raiders, so expect both teams to have some players who may not be 100 percent, but will play, albeit on limited snaps.

* Davis’ presence is good news because the Broncos can run more two tight end sets, something they didn’t do against Oakland the last time. The Raiders don’t have the personnel to effectively cover two tight ends, so if Davis is good to go, the Broncos can take advantage. Take note that Owen Daniels has played much better ever since Davis came along. Davis might not be putting up big numbers, but his presence alone has made a difference.

* Finally, I thought everyone might be interested in what Ben Muth at Football Outsiders has observed about the Broncos’ offensive line ever since Osweiler took snaps. It tells me that, while Osweiler hasn’t really taken over games, his presence has helped the offensive line. It’s one of several things that will make it tougher for Peyton Manning to regain his starting job, unless he’s willing to make some changes (the pistol won’t be happening any longer) or Osweiler rapidly regresses.

That’s all for Midweek Musings this time. Go Broncos!

UPDATE, 12/10/15 12:51 P.M. MST: Andrew Mason has an update on who did and didn’t practice for the Broncos. Shane Ray was not listed with an injury, so it’s possible he missed practice for a non-injury reason.

UPDATE, 12/10/15, 1:15 P.M. MST: Troy Renck regarding Ray’s absence.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.