Eleven things about the Broncos as they return home for the first time in four weeks to take on the Las Vegas Raiders.
1. In the first matchup between the teams, Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby racked up four tackles for loss and made an impact on Vegas’ 32-23 victory in a major way. Crosby has had another productive season and enters Week 11 tied for the NFL lead with 14 tackles for loss to go along with seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
2. “He’s playing at a really high level,” Denver offensive coordinator Justin Outten said. … “Accounting for him was something we looked at, obviously, throughout the (first) game, but we didn’t have a lot of answers for some of the stuff he was doing as far as his alignments. This game, ways to get around that, things to affect him, but not only that but you look on the other side and you have another problem (in Chandler Jones). Just being a little smarter with what we’re calling and what we’re asking our guys to do.”
3. This is the first time Nathaniel Hackett as a head coach has gone through a week where he and his staff are preparing to play an opponent for a second time. Both teams, he said, have changed quite a bit in the past six weeks.
4. “You want it to be as much of a review for the guys, especially now that we’re later into the season,” Hackett said. “We’ll look at the things they did, some of the things they might repeat and some of the things they might change up. But still, you have to look back at the (most recent) four games because they’ve had a lot of personnel changes themselves.”
5. Rookie wide receiver Brandon Johnson looked to be in prime position to make the Broncos’ initial roster this summer, but suffered a high-ankle sprain in the final preseason game and was waived injured. He returned to the practice squad a few weeks ago and could be a candidate for a game-day call up Sunday against the Raiders. He earned praise this week from Hackett, quarterback Russell Wilson and special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes.
6. “Brandon’s done a great job,” Hackett said. “He was out for a while and then came back to the practice squad and didn’t skip a beat. He kept himself in shape, he was able to come out and contribute right away. He’s got great body control, we saw it in the preseason. He’s a smart football player, knows all the positions.”
7. One player dealing with the tough part of the rookie learning curve is return man Montrell Washington. He’s had ball-security issues but also has not been decisive enough on when to field punts. Against Tennessee, he let a ball hit at the 13-yard line and roll down deep into his own territory. Other times this season, he’s fielded a ball deeper than coordinator Dwayne Stukes wants him to.
8. “He’s overthinking things, to be completely honest,” Stukes said. … “He is a young guy, he doesn’t have a lot of experience and I’m not going to use that as an excuse. He has to do his job and that’s my job to get him right. That’s what I’m working on.”
9. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has picked up seven first downs with his legs so far this year. Five of them came against Denver in the teams’ first meeting. He’s got 67 total rushing yards in nine games. All but 27 came against the Broncos. As much as Ejiro Evero’s defense struggled to contain Josh Jacobs at Allegiant Stadium earlier this year, Carr’s ability to extend drives with his legs — not normally in his repertoire — was difficult to overcome.
10. “He definitely hurt us with his legs the last time we played them,” said Evero, Denver’s first-year defensive coordinator. “We’ve got to be very cognizant of covering the skill guys they have and getting ready for the run game. A big part of our plan is going to be to keep him in the pocket.”
11. College football is always a topic of conversation in the locker room on Fridays. This week, Alex Singleton’s alma mater, Montana State, is hosting ESPN’s College Gameday and facing off against in-state rival Montana in Bozeman. Singleton, clearly, is picking MSU and landed on a score of 24-17. He claimed, though, to not have a ton of insight on the matchup. Why? “I don’t know anything about the Girz,” he said of Montana. “I don’t watch the Griz. I don’t like the Griz. I’m not going to waste my time. Time is the most valuable thing we have.” That, and bragging rights for the Continental Divide trophy.