Raiders practice roster provides advantage over Broncos

Strength against strength. Sumo tug-a-war.

That’s what this Sunday night is, when the best pass rush in the league faces off against the best offensive line in football. The Broncos’ league leading 26 sacks might not show up, though, and it’s not just because the Raiders have allowed the fewest, with nine.

It’s because the Raiders can replicate a lot of what Denver linebacker Von Miller can do alongside his counterpart Shane Ray, thanks to Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack being on the practice field.

Oakland’s offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, said:

“That is good training. Now that Bruce is here, along with Khalil, that is good training to face people who are similar to who we’re going to see on Sunday.”

Of Miller, Musgrave said:

“He’s explosive, just so dynamic. Has strength, but also has incredible speed. They’ve got a ton of good players and pro bowlers on that side of the ball that we’re gonna have to contend with.”

Miller notched a sack in each of the two games players versus the Raiders last season, and 4.5 sacks on Oakland quarterbacks for his career. Miller has 8.5 sacks already this year, in only eight games.

A number of Broncos defenders are reeling from injuries, though, including star cornerback Aqib Talib, who traveled to California Thursday morning for a second opinion on an ailment regarding his back.

Defensive back Kayvon Webster also missed Thursday’s practice, along with center Matt Paradis and left tackle Russell Okung.

Talib and Chris Harris Jr., Denver’s other starting cornerback, have dealt with minor injuries all season after the tandem made for the scariest defensive back duo of 2015. If they play, they’ll both likely be at less than 100%, though even the two at 70% makes for a worthy opponent.

Which is why Oakland is squarely focused on a plan to beat Denver. Musgrave said:

“There’s some X’s and O’s that we need to cover in each and every meeting. We have a good routine where we’re prepared and focused on our side of the ball and playing good technique with what we do. We definitely have our hands full with some of the matchups this week, but that’s common for each and every week.”

Musgrave tried to downplay the importance of this week 9 tilt, noting that every game is important, but there’s no doubting how much the outcome of Sunday night will affect the Raiders, the division, and the entire league.

The AFC is clearly the best division in football, and even the last place Chargers are to be feared. With both Denver and Oakland at 6-2, and the tie-breaking rules stating that head to head record trumps all else when two teams finish with the same record. And the second is inter-division record.

The Raiders also only have three games remaining facing teams that have worse than a .500 record through week 8, so starting out the second half with a win has the potential get Oakland rolling with positive momentum.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.