Oakland Raiders: Keys To Victory Over Denver Broncos

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Oct 4, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Eddie Royal (19) scores a touchdown past Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Time To Grow Up, Time To Step Up

Much has already been written about the sorry state of Oakland’s secondary. Outside of Charles Woodson and Travis Carrie, none of Oakland’s defensive backs are playing very good football. And injuries have ravaged an already thin unit.

Against Denver, the Raiders are going to be facing one of the most explosive receiving tandems in the league in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. They both have the ability to play big and dominate games.

It’s a tall order, but the Raiders’ secondary is going to have to find a way to minimize the impact they have on the game.

One way for Oakland’s corners to have some measure of success is to play up on them. D.J. Hayden has the habit of playing five yards off the receiver. And he’s so slow in reacting to a play that the receiver often has the ball and has gained several yards before Hayden even reacts. This has led to a number of third down conversions that could have been prevented had Hayden been up on the receiver and more aware of the play.

Denver’s receivers do most of their damage in yards after the catch. Both are very good in space, have the ability to make people miss, and have the speed to break a big one. And Oakland’s young secondary, Hayden, Neiko Thorpe, Keith McGill, and now Tevin McDonald who was just activated from the practice squad are tasked with stopping them.

One way to do it is to play up on the receiver, jam him at the line, contest those short routes and short bubble screens, and do not let them have the space to make a catch as Oakland’s corners have been giving them. The young corners are playing tentative football. They’re doing all they can to keep the play in front of them. But all they’re doing by doing that is helping the opposing offense chew up yardage, move the chains, and stick the ball in the endzone.

The corners need to be aggressive. They need to be smart. They need to react quicker than they have been. And they need to be physical with Denver’s receivers. They cannot allow them to catch and run. They need to snuff it out the moment the ball is caught.

If Oakland’s young corners can step up and play big, if they can have the game of their careers – if not their lives – they’ll give the Raiders more than a fighting chance to win the game. If they can’t – it might be a long afternoon in the Bay Area.

Next: Raiders Look For Signature Win Over Broncos