After narrowly defeating the Seattle Seahawks last week, the Denver Broncos have an opportunity to start the season 2-0 for the sixth consecutive year. Now, Jon Gruden and company come to Denver after an ugly 20-point loss in his return to the sideline.
Denver successfully moved the ball down the field and dominated on defense while Oakland did precisely the opposite. Here are three storylines to watch for when the AFC West rivals battle Sunday afternoon.
Case Keenum’s game management
Vance Joseph was adamant about Keenum’s game management throughout the offseason. It’s one of the reasons John Elway brought the quarterback in to compliment a powerful defense like Denver’s. Against the Seahawks, though, Keenum limited the offense with three interceptions. One occurred on the edge of the red zone while another put the Seahawks deep in Broncos’ territory.
After throwing seven interceptions all of last season, the three-turnover performance is troubling for Keenum. Despite the worrisome game in terms of turnovers, Keenum and the Broncos played well on offense, ranking fifth in total offense Week 1 (470 yards) and fifth in PFF’s offensive ratings. If Keenum can avoid the turnovers that led to points for Seattle, Denver figures to take another step forward in Week 2.
Slowing down Jared Cook and Amari Cooper
Jared Cook was the Raiders’ lone bright spot during Monday night’s loss to the Rams. The athletic tight end accumulated nine receptions for 180 yards, 125 yards more than his next closest teammate. Meanwhile, Denver struggled to contain Seattle’s unproven tight end, Will Dissly, who racked up 105 yards and a touchdown last week.
Much of Dissly’s damage came on a 66-yard catch and run courtesy of dreadful tackling from the Broncos. Cook is more athletic than Dissly and can cause matchup fits for opposing defenses. Joseph said he plans to use a variety of strategies in stopping Cook, and doing so will be important Sunday afternoon.
With so much focus on Cook, it could be easy to downplay Amari Cooper’s potential impact. A one-catch performance to start the year after a disappointing 2017 has critics all over Cooper. Despite the struggles, Gruden said he wants to get Cooper more involved this week and move him around the offense. There were opportunities to hit Cooper deep last week that went unnoticed, so his impact could very well increase this Sunday.
Momentum in the pass rush
The Broncos ended any qualms of their pass rush not living up to expectations with a six-sack game against Seattle. Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Shaquil Barrett all showed their ability to get the quarterback, making it close to impossible to completely stymie the defense.
The Broncos will look to keep that momentum rolling against an offensive line that should be better than Seattle’s. Pro Bowler Donald Penn is a proven veteran, and Von Miller said rookie tackle Kolton Miller is the best of this year’s draft class. Miller and the rest of the pass rushers’ ability to get to Derek Carr could go a long way in Denver accomplishing a 2-0 start.