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Del Rio doesn’t see much change in Broncos

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Denver Broncos have revamped their systems of offense and defense while remaining one of the NFL’s elite teams, but when Jack Del Rio looks closely, he doesn’t see a great deal of difference in the team he was a part of for the previous three seasons.

Del Rio was the Broncos defensive coordinator under John Fox from 2012 through 2014, coming to Denver after defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was hired by the Raiders to be the head coach.

Despite winning the AFC West last season and going 12-4, Denver vice president John Elway wanted to go in a different direction after two seasons of playoff failures.

Before Elway could act, Del Rio had taken a job with the Raiders, and not long afterward, Fox agreed to leave and Elway hired Gary Kubiak as the head coach.

Kubiak revamped the offense to his specifications and brought in Wade Phillips to run the defense. Phillips put in a 3-4 alignment as opposed to Del Rio’s 4-3.

Despite new systems of offense and defense, Del Rio knows the team he is dealing with Sunday when the Raiders host Denver at O.co Coliseum.

“Very, very familiar,” Del Rio said. “Good players on all three levels of the defense. Offensively, they’ve got a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback and a couple of really explosive receivers.

“It’s the same things that it’s been. I know the team well. I was part of it for the last three years and we’re looking forward to the challenge Sunday.”

Denver is leading the NFL, giving up only 275.5 yards per game on defense and 11 players with sacks, and the characterization that Phillips has put together a juggernaut defensively seems to amuse Del Rio, given the generally solid performances his own team put up for there years.

“Wade has done a nice job his entire time in the league and he’s doing a nice job to start the year,” Del Rio said. “We were second one year (2012), we were third one year (2013).

“Out of my three years there, I think two of the years we were right up there. There’s a lot of talent and Wade does a nice job with what he does.”

After three years with Peyton Manning, plus years of competing against Manning as coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Del Rio isn’t buying the notion of a supposedly fading skill set.

“I think really it’s a guy who is still very much in charge of things,” Del Rio said. “I think they’ve been the best two-minute operation in the league to start the year, and that’s vintage Peyton.”

If there are any advantages to having coached the Broncos for three years, Del Rio wasn’t letting on.

“Not really any to speak of, I wish there were,” Del Rio said. “I wish there were some advantages, but what we’re going to do is get ourselves ready to compete like we do every week and look forward to playing good football.”

SERIES HISTORY: 110th meeting, Raiders lead series 59-48-2, but Broncos have won the last seven games. In the 2014 regular season finale, Denver won 47-14 as Peyton Manning completed 23-of-39 passes for 273 yards as the Raiders completed a 3-13 season. Oakland’s last win came 23-20 in the 2011 opener on the road with Hue Jackson as head coach. The Raiders’ last win over Denver in Oakland was 39-23 on Dec. 19, 2010.

GAME PLAN

–If the Raiders can’t get some semblance of a running game going, quarterback Derek Carr could be in for a long day against DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Co. and the ferocious Denver pass rush. Look for the Raiders to be patient and be sending running backs Latavius Murray and Roy Helu Jr. at the Broncos, and if their own defense holds up, play some field position to keep the game close. The Raiders haven’t blitzed often and probably aren’t about to start against Peyton Manning, and especially with Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith starting to heat up with a natural rush. The Raiders will look to bottle up the run, make Manning uncomfortable and hope the quarterback throws a few passes up for grabs that their own defenders can get — most notably free safety Charles Woodson.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Raiders LT Donald Penn and RT Austin Howard vs. Broncos WLB DeMarcus Ware and SLB Von Miller.

Ware, back as a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, already has 4 1/2 sacks and 25 quarterback pressures, and looks as dominating as ever. He will come mostly at Penn, who even as the Raiders top pass blocker may need some help to keep Ware under some kind of control. Miller, with 24 pressures and two sacks, is the responsibility of Austin Howard, whose play in the last three games has been much improved after a shaky opener. Compounding the problems for the tackles is dealing with a Denver defense that is liable to send anybody. The Broncos have had 11 players record sacks.

–Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Raiders CB DJ Hayden.

The Raiders’ secondary is as shaky as ever, which is bad news considering tight end Demaryius Thomas comes to town. Over the last three seasons, Thomas has 45 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns in six games against the Raiders, an average of 7.5 catches and 102.6 yards per game. Quarterback Peyton Manning has long tortured defensive backs who don’t get turned around quickly enough and especially with Thomas, who specializes at high-pointing and bringing down passes in coverage. Hayden has struggled as a starter and desperately needs to make a play or two early to avoid being picked on by


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