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"They haven’t seen a secondary like ours": Broncos not buying hype on Raiders wideouts

Zac Stevens Avatar
November 2, 2016


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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In a primetime matchup on Sunday Night Football, two of the games elites will go head-to-head against each other: the Denver Broncos secondary and the Oakland Raiders passing offense.

While the matchup between the co-leaders of the AFC West, Raiders (6-2) and Broncos (6-2), is intriguing enough, the game within the game will be who comes out on top between Denver’s top-ranked pass defense and Oakland’s fourth-ranked passing offense.

“As a defense we want to go up against the best and take the best down, and right now it’s Oakland,” safety Justin Simmons said. “No better team for it to be than Oakland, a division rival and just the rivalry that’s been going on between the two [teams].”

After looking at Oakland’s quarterback, Derek Carr, it is not surprising why the Raiders have a top-rated passing attack. The second-year pro out of Fresno State is in the MVP race through the first half of the season, throwing for 2,321 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns, only three interceptions and a 100.9 passer rating.

The Raiders aren’t afraid to empower their young quarterback either. Carr currently leads the league in passing attempts (323), averaging just over 40 a game, and has lead a league-high three fourth-quarter game-winning drives.

“I think the thing with Derek is he has thrown it more than anybody in football and he has turned it over less than anyone in football,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “Can you be aggressive, can you go out there and throw it around, but can you keep us in games and not turn the ball over? That’s what he’s doing.”

While Carr is certainly proving himself to be great, he has many offensive weapons around him to build such a dominant air attack. Similar to the Broncos dangerous wide receiving duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, the Raiders are quickly developing their own with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

“[Carr] has so much confidence in Crabtree and Cooper, he’ll just throw it up to them,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.

Although Cooper and Crabtree can be threats in any part of the passing game, they both have their own unique dominance. Cooper, the fourth overall selection in the 2015 draft, has been one of the elite receivers in the league so far this year. The University of Alabama product ranks third in the NFL in receptions (52) and receiving yards (787) to go along with two touchdowns and 15.1 yards per reception.

“They both have great route running that gets them open and gets them out of trouble. They both do a great job, especially Cooper, of going up to go get the football when it’s in the air,” Simmons said. “[Cooper] does a good job of adjusting his angles and making sure that he puts himself in the best position to catch the football.”

Cooper’s 98.4 receiving yards per game only trails the Falcons Julio Jones and the Bengals A.J. Green in the entire league. Opposite of Cooper is another top draft pick: Crabtree, who was drafted tenth overall in 2009 by the San Francisco 49ers.

Crabtree is also having an elite season, ranking fifth in the NFL in receptions (47) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (6) to go along with 569 receiving yards.

The Raiders passing game not only is tops in the league, but is coming off of their best performance of the year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game in which they racked up 498 net passing yards with four passing touchdowns and no interceptions. Carr earned the AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 513-yard passing performance. Harris, however, warned not to take too much stock in a team playing against Tampa Bay’s secondary.

“The Bucs make it hard to watch watching their secondary,” he joked.

And he wasn’t the only unimpressed member of the No Fly Zone.

“I feel like they have two good receivers,” said T.J. Ward. “I dont feel like they have two elite receivers.

Elite, not elite, it doesnt matter much to Harris.

“As soon as I get on the field I will challenge anybody,” he said. “[Raiders head coach] Jack [Del Rio] knows that. His receivers got to be ready to compete all day so he is probably telling them about me. We have a lot of chances to get picks, we have a lot of chances to make plays.”

Although the Broncos defense has faced the 11th most passing attempts in the league, they’re tops in the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game (183.9), opposing quarterback completion percentage (53.5), opposing quarterback passer rating (65.7) and net yards per pass (4.7).

“It’s a big challenge for us, but we aren’t the No. 1 pass defense for no reason,” Simmons said. “Obviously they are still threats, but they haven’t seen a secondary like ours yet.”

On Sunday night, the best units on both teams will go head-to-head and one side is going to have to give. The winner of this battle could very well determine the winner of the game, and thus the leader of the division.


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