Jussel: Expect Raiders to run over Broncos again
The Denver Broncos mercifully end their season today.
It’s been a long, hard road, starting out 4-0, then losing seven of 10.
A win, while good for orange-and-blue souls, will drop the Broncos from 15ish to 22ish in the upcoming draft.
Today would be a good day to see a few good things from Denver’s up-and-comers. A loss, however, even though it would be against the 12-3 Oakland Raiders, is more in order.
That will happen.
The Raiders proved the last time these two met that their offensive line is simply too big, too good for the small, quick Denver defenders — and that’s with only five linemen playing.
At times, the Raiders put eight big uglies in the blocking mode: the interior, two massive tight ends and one 240-pound fullback.
It worked to the tune of 218 rushing yards on 43 carries. Starting tailback Latavius Murray had 114 yards on 20 carries and scored three TDs. Jalen Richards added 62 yards and DeAndre Washington another 35.
Want to know the difference between Denver and Oakland this season? Denver rushed 12 times for 33 yards in the game.
Let’s figure this out today: No Derek Carr at QB for Oakland. No Derek Wolfe and likely no Sylvester Williams in the middle of Denver’s defensive line. Oakland rammed the ball down Denver’s throat the last time they played.
Oakland wins it 27-18 and claims the AFC West title over Kansas City. The Raiders also earn a first-round bye and home field in the second round of the playoffs.
The Raiders are young, talented and will stay that way.
What’s Denver to do?
We’ve talked at length about some fixes, namely Denver’s offensive line where they have one quality starter, center Matt Paradis. They have two cheap young guards in Max Garcia and Michael Schofield. They are, however, mediocre. One of the two will likely remain a starter next season because of economics. The other will be a reserve.
Denver needs to find at least three new offensive line starters. Mock drafts galore have Denver taking Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a 6-foot-6, 315-pounder, anywhere between 18th and 22nd in the first round. He is reportedly NFL ready now. That would be one cheap fix, if a bit of a gamble because the immediate need is so great.
I’ve already mentioned this, but it worth revisiting: There will be plenty of free agent tackles on the scene, including Andrew Whitworth, Matt Kalil, Sebastian Vollmer, Andre Smith and Mike Remmers.
Guards likely available include Luke Joeckel, Chance Warmack, T.J. Lang and Ron Leary. Only one guard, Notre Dame’s Quenten Nelson, is ranked among the top 50 draft prospects by ESPN Insider.
Denver will sign a veteran guard.
We should also mention here that as bad as John Elway’s free agency signings turned out in the spring — tackles Russell Okung, Donald Stephenson and Jared Crick were the headliners — that was due mostly having to re-sign his own free agents for big bucks.
That’s not the case this time around and Elway should have money to burn … maybe enough to sign a big-money quarterback or trade for one.
Dallas’ Tony Romo, of course, comes to mind. At 37 years old, the injury-prone Romo will not come to Denver without Elway addressing the offensive line issue.
The Broncos won’t trade for him without thinking he will stay on the field, and won’t go ga-ga and sign him to a rich free-agent contract (if Dallas releases him) without promise of better protection up front.
Other quarterback options: Stay with Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch and pay a relative pittance for each, or check out Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor or maybe even Chicago’s Jay Cutler (did I just say that?).
Also available — and he will be THE free agent — is Washington’s Kirk Cousins, likely to haul in $30 million per year for four or five seasons.
Humm? Didn’t Peyton Manning once sign with Denver?
What else to address?
A few mock drafts make sense with Denver taking tight end Jake Butt of Michigan. Butt would immediately upgrade the Broncos in the middle of the field passing game and he can block, too.
The other huge area of need is, as mentioned in the earlier game against Oakland, the defensive line. Free agents abound, as many as six or seven who will demand big bucks, Kawann Short and Brandon Williams among them. Denver has also talked with the Jets about Sheldon Richardson in a trade.
According to one report, Elway and the Broncos could have between $25 and $40 million in cap room to maneuver.
I’m taking my 10-5 record picking with or against the Broncos this season and say Denver loses the skirmish today, but wins the war in the end. Help is on the way.