Many things have changed since the last time Oakland and Denver met in Week 1. The Raiders have a new quarterback and a new wide receiver. They might also have a different running back than the one the Broncos faced in the season-opener. But regardless of that, one thing remains the same.
The Raiders are a premier running team. They are second in the NFL, averaging 159.3 rushing yards per game. Even if the NFL’s eighth-leading rusher, Darren McFadden, doesn’t play — he hasn’t practiced this week with a foot injury — the Raiders will utilize Michael Bush and rookie Taiwan Jones.
Bush stepped in for McFadden in the Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs after the fourth-year running back out of Arkansas injured his foot. Bush ran for 99 yards on 17 carries.
Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen has been impressed with McFadden, calling him “one of the better backs in the league,” but notes that the Broncos won’t get much of a break if he doesn’t play.
“I think when you go back and look at (their last) game, he gets hurt, and they hand the ball off to Bush, and I think he had about 100 yards rushing in the game,” Allen said. “I think schematically what they do, their personnel allows them to be a really good running football team, and when you put a special talent like Darren McFadden back there, it makes it even that much better.”
The players echoed Allen’s statement, saying that it doesn’t matter who’s in the backfield for Oakland, as they all present a challenge and the Raiders will still run the ball.
“They still want to tote the rock,” safety Brian Dawkins said. “No matter who’s back there, the offensive line does a good job of moving people, getting people on the ground so that the backs can have some open lanes. We have to make sure that we stay off the ground and make tackles.”
Head Coach John Fox said that the Broncos need to do better at stopping the run than they did against Oakland in Week 1, when they gave up 190 yards on the ground. However, Fox recognizes that the team has played better run defense since that matchup and hopes that will continue.
“We definitely have to play better,” Fox said. “We saw them once in the opener, and it was our first time out as a defense. Hopefully we’ve cleaned some of that up. We’ve been a little bit more solid since that time.
“They’re very talented. They have very talented backs, not just No. 20 (McFadden), and a big offensive line, so it should definitely be a test for us.”
Here is Thursday’s injury report.
For the Broncos: safety Quinton Carter (concussion), cornerback Cassius Vaughn (hamstring) and tight end Virgil Green (neck) did not practice. Running back Willis McGahee (hand) and tackle Orlando Franklin (groin) were limited. Tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) was a full participant.
For the Raiders: running back Darren McFadden (foot), quarterback Jason Campbell (collarbone), cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), safety Michael Huff (ankle), kicker Sebastian Janikowski (left hamstring), cornerback Chris Johnson (groin/hamstring), and linebacker Rolando McClain (ankle) did not practice. Defensive Tackle John Henderson (back) and center Samson Satele (knee) were limited. Tight end Kevin Boss (concussion), safety Matt Giordano (neck), running back Marcel Reece (ankle), and wide receiver Chaz Schilens (groin) were full participants in practice.
For photos of the Broncos in action at Thursday’s practice, see below.