Raiders vs. Broncos: Matchups to watch


Raiders vs. Broncos: Matchups to watch

Sept. 9, 2011


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Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA -- Bittersweet does not begin to describe the Raiders' lot in 2010. They went unbeaten at 6-0 in the AFC West, yet just 2-8 outside of the division and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Heading into 2011, Oakland returns to the site of its greatest and most satisfying triumph, and on the biggest regular season stage in the game. Memories of the Raiders' 59-14 blowout of the Broncos last Oct. 24 in Denver still fresh in everyone's minds, the two play the final game of opening weekend on Monday Night Football.

In the wake of the NFL lockout -- both teams have new head coaches -- questions abound. A look, then, at some key matchups to watch Monday night:
Matchup to watch
Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes (69) vs. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil (92)

Barnes: 6-5, 325, Washington, seventh season
Dumervil: 5-11, 260, Louisville, fifth season

Two years ago, Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks. But he missed all of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle in training camp.

Barnes beat out rookie Joe Barksdale to win the right tackle position but had a rough go of it in the preseason with four false start penalties, three in the exhibition opener against Arizona.

So while Dumervill might actually line up more often across from Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer, Barnes will see more than his fair share of Dumervil in the Broncos' hybrid scheme, especially with sack-happy rookie linebacker Von Miller poised to create chaos from different parts of the field. And what makes the matchup all the more intriguing is combined experience and the size differential between the two.

Barnes may have a six-inch height advantage and weigh 65 pounds more, but Dumervil is much sleeker and faster. Plus, his lower center of gravity is an inherent advantage.

"He has natural leverage, good leverage to the ground already because of his size," Barnes said. "Good anchor and he plays (the) pass very well. And the rookie Von Miller, he has a little juice off the edge, too. So they've got two good pass rushers and me and Jared are going to have to be on our game that night.

"We have to bend to get down there. Those guys are already out-leveraging us naturally. So we're going to have to work to get up under their pads."

Broncos' first-year coach John Fox was asked to compare Dumervil to other players.

"(Dwight) Freeney coming out was looked at as undersized," Fox said. "Looking back, Jevon Kearse, when they first started in the 4-3 (defense was) a little bit smaller end. You used to have to be 6-5, 280 to play end in the National Football League. Just like your inside 'backers used to be real big guys. The game has gotten faster and with that speed, has become a little bit smaller.

"The thing that Elvis has is very long arms, which I think kind of off-sets his height."

Other matchups worth watching:

Hue Jackson vs. John Fox - A relatively young rookie coach who's never been a head coach at any level but is known for his offensive acumen in Jackson makes his debut on the Monday Night Football stage. Against a veteran, defensive-minded first-year coach who once worked for the Raiders in Fox, under those same primetime lights.

Opposites attract, and then some.

Jackson joined Mike Shanahan this preseason as the only Raiders coaches to go 0-4 in exhibitions but he was hamstrung by injuries. Now?

"I'm even more confident," Jackson said. "I have all my toys back, all my players are back. We're ready to play."

Fox, the Raiders' defensive coordinator in 1994 and 1995, was Carolina's head coach from 2002 through 2010.

"I hired John Fox," Raiders owner Al Davis reminded the gathering at Jackson's introductory media conference in January. "He was two years the coordinator here andafter failing in Carolina, he's the head coach in Denver."

Who blinks first in their respective debut?

Raiders vs. overconfidence - It's human nature, right? After all, the last time the Raiders visited Denver, they dropped a record 59 points on the Broncos. In three quarters, before taking the foot off the gas.

Darren McFadden had a career day with a career-high 165 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including three on the ground, while Sebastian Janikowski had eight touchbacks.

And then in the second meeting of the season, in Oakland, the Raiders won again, 39-23, to sweep the season series, 98-37, the largest single-season home-and-home differential in division play since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

So surely it must be in the back of the Raiders' heads that this will be another walk in the Mile High air, no?

Well, the players are saying al the right things. That last year was last year, and it doesn't matter what happened then, and this is a new year and yada, yada, yada.

We'll see how much they truly believe it.

Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'


Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'

ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has a good feel for Tom Brady. He faced New England’s legendary quarterback three times as Seattle’s linebackers coach, with some positive results. The Seahawks won two regular-season games and lost the Super Bowl at the last second.

He knows what worked then, and believes that should help prepare the Raiders defense for what’s coming Sunday in Mexico City.

“I played Brady a couple years ago in the Super Bowl with Seattle. We played very well against him,” Norton said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve had some success against him so I have a good feel for what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s just a matter of having the right emphasis and the ability to make the plays.

“Having a guy like (Brady) on the team who’s capable at any point of throwing a deep ball, capable at any point of getting it to the right players at the right time. He understands who is around him. He understands how to get the ball to the guys. He’s got a long resume of doing it well.”

Having success against Brady, however, is a relative term. He still produced against a loaded Seattle defense far better than this year’s Raiders unit. He will produce again Sunday, even if most goes right. Limitation, however, if key.

Norton believes certain things are essential when facing a Patriots team. Sure tackling. Impacting the quarterback.

The first is vital, something the Raiders have done well save a Week 9 win over Miami. The Raiders have to limit explosives and keep the ball in front of them, especially with the way Brady likes to play.

“The Patriots do a really good job of underneath coverage,” Norton said. “They have guys that catch and run really well. The backs, the tight ends, the matchups underneath, they catch and make people miss. They try to match up with your linebackers and safeties. They feel like their guys are pretty good. Tackling is something we’ve been really outstanding with all year but this last game against Miami we didn’t do so well and it kind of stands out, especially when it’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.

“I really feel like our emphasis and what we do well matches up well with that they try to do.”

There are some problem spots. One is limiting deep shots, something Brady has unleashed with startling efficiency. He’s 19-for47 for 410 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards, with speedsters Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett able to haul them in. The Raiders have proven vulnerable to track-star receivers. 

Impacting Brady is mandatory, but also difficult given his excellent pocket presence. He’s especially good at feeling pressure off the edge, where reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack typically lines up opposite Bruce Irvin.

Brady has proven vulnerable to interior pressure, which is why Mario Edwards Jr. will be an X-factor on passing downs. He has four sacks this season and needs to break free in the backfield to force difficult decisions or, at the very lest, disrupt New England’s timing.

Brady gets rid of the ball fast at times. Raiders rushers can’t get frustrated by that, especially Mack.

“If the quarterback is going to throw the ball in less than two seconds, it’s going to be tough to get there,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So when the quarterback is throwing the ball quick like that, we’ve got to tackle and have their punt team come out. They’ll get tired of punting or turning the ball over and they’ll sit and hold the ball a little bit and Khalil can get there. If they’re throwing the ball in two seconds or less, it’s going to be hard to get sacks.”

The Raiders only have 13 sacks this season, second worst in the NFL. Getting a few could swing a tight game. Norton’s Raiders believe they have a solid plan to mitigate somewhat the Patriots ferocious attack, that features versatile tight ends allowing them to do different things from one personnel package.

Don’t expect a shutout, or anything close. The Raiders understand that, but believe they can mitigate some damage.

“If you go back to the New England Patriots five, six, eight years ago they’re doing similar things,” Norton said. “They do what they do really well. They’re a fine-tuned machine. Everybody knows exactly what their role is. Guys know exactly what’s expected of them. Obviously the quarterback is the heart and soul and the one that makes that train run. Really, really good players that really understand what their role is and play well against leverage, run after catch, tough and they make plays.”

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'


Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr a massive contract extension last June. Right guard Gabe Jackson got paid later that month.

Khalil Mack’s big deal is coming, likely this offseason. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie anticipates a deal getting done, and hopes Mack’s agent feels the same way.

Mack’s rep and Raiders contract folks will work out details of a massive contract extension. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have interest in all that. He has one preference above all.

Mack doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with the Raiders long term.

“Of course. That’s not even a question,” Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, which airs in this week's episode of "Raiders Central." “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime”

Mack has plenty of money, top-5 overall draft picks often do. The No. 5 selection in 2014 considered that first deal life-changing money, enough to help his family.

“That has been a treat for me so far,” Mack said.

He doesn’t daydream about signing a nine-figure contract. He doesn’t long to be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (although that might be in the cards, anyway).

“I’m not really even thinking about that,” Mack said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots, that’s just my focus that’s just my mindset – anybody who talked to me about that matter, whether it be my best friend, my mom, my dad, I tell them the same thing. I’m thinking about the Patriots and sacking Tom Brady.”

That, unlike signing a record contract, was a career a goal. Mack said in a post-draft press conference he wanted to sack legends. Peyton Manning and Brady topped the list.

Manning retired before Mack could check his box. Mack will have a second chance at Brady Sunday when the Raiders play New England in Mexico City. He had eight tackles and two quarterback hits against Brady’s Patriots in 2014, but didn’t bring the quarterback down.

Mack considered his third regular season game a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

The University of Buffalo alum has accomplished a ton since then, with 34.5 sacks and last year’s top defensive honor to his credit. He’ll need a Herculean performance against the Patriots to help the Raiders win a pivotal game. A sack would certainly help, but Mack isn’t calling his shot.

“Yeah, I’m not one to talk,” Mack said. “I’ll express that when I get on the field, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to play against him.”