ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If something is going to give Sunday between the Broncos and Raiders, it probably will take place in the red zone.
The Broncos’ offense ranks No. 32, or last, in the NFL in converting red-zone possessions into touchdowns at 14.3% (1 in 7).
The Las Vegas Raiders’ defense, as anyone who watched Arizona’s Kyler Murray dazzle in the fourth quarter of Week 2 could have guessed, ranks No. 30 in the NFL in preventing red-zone touchdowns at 80% (8 of 10, not including a crucial two-point conversion by Murray).
For the Broncos, their lone successful red-zone trip was their most recent one, in the fourth quarter Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers when running back Melvin Gordon III carried it in from the 1-yard line. The matchup stats on paper say this is the week the Broncos can carry momentum and get their red-zone offense right against the Raiders.
“Every single time you look at it, you’re never as good as you think you are; you’re never as bad as you think you are,’’ Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said Thursday. “I think the Raiders are a very good football team. They have a real good scheme down in the red zone. Sometimes things happen, they don’t click …
“For us, we want to do what’s best for this game. And we want to be sure we get the matchups when we can and be able to get the ball in the end zone. But I think we’re better than we are (in the red zone) and I think they’re better than they are (in the red zone) and I think two really good teams.”
The Stukes Lane
Jerry Rosburg has become the Harvey Keitel of the Broncos’ coaching staff. The cleaner. Rosburg was hired last week to help clean up Nathaniel Hackett’s game-management issues and it appeared he was successful.
Rosburg also has 19 years of NFL experience as a special teams coordinator, but the Broncos already have one in Dwayne Stukes.
"We all know he has been hired for game management. That's what he'll do,’’ Stukes said Thursday when asked if Rosburg would assist. “I have an assistant, his name is Mike Mallory. He's the guy I lean on. And the other guy I conversate with on a regular basis is (Rams and former Broncos’ special teams coordinator) Joe DeCamillis. Obviously we play them this year (on Christmas Day in Los Angeles) so we have to be careful what we talk about. But if I need somebody to lean on, those are the two guys I'm leaning on.’’
Three and outs
While the Broncos had enough defense and fourth-quarter magic from Russell Wilson to pull out an 11-10 win Sunday night against the 49ers, Denver’s offense did not play well for most of the game as it had 9 – count ‘em, 9 – three-and-outs (not including the final three kneeldowns to end the game).
“We have to buckle down on the details of everything,’’ offensive coordinator Justin Outten said. “There were a lot of self-inflicting issues that we’re hoping to clean up. Last week overemphasized the urgency of getting out of the huddle and it was a good result in the game. This week we’re overemphasizing the details and your responsibility on the play.”
Concussion sidelines D.J. Jones
D.J. Jones, one of Denver’s best defensive tackles, missed another practice Thursday as he continues to recover from the effects of a concussion suffered during the game Sunday against the 49ers. Jones likely would have to be cleared from the concussion protocol by an independent neurologist by the time the Broncos depart Saturday afternoon for Las Vegas in order to play Sunday.
It also appears hamstring injuries will keep a trio of backups sidelined as cornerback Darius Phillips, outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper and receiver Tyrie Cleveland all missed practice again Thursday.
After making a team-high 14 tackles while playing 114 of 118 defensive snaps in the Broncos’ first two games, inside linebacker Alex Singleton didn’t get in on one defensive snap against the 49ers as Josey Jewell returned from a calf injury.
Singleton was hardly completely idle, though, as he led the team with 3 special teams tackles.
“A guy that can make plays consistently,’’ Stukes said of Singleton. “You insert him on the punt team, you insert him on kickoff coverage. The speed, the awareness, the way he got down the field, it was very impressive.”
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