- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks over the Raiders' defense Monday night, he will be looking at a group that has gotten the bulk of its sacks from guys wearing jerseys with numbers in the 20s on the front.
The Raiders have nine sacks this season, and the team’s defensive backs have five. When the Broncos go to the three-wide look, which they most often do when they have the ball, it will put the Broncos' running backs on the spot in pass protection. That's especially true when the Raiders add a player or two to the rush from off the line of scrimmage.
The Broncos backs have worked plenty this week on different scenarios to know who to pick up when those defensive backs arrive in the rush after the initial surge following the snap.
“They do a good job of freeing guys up,’’ said Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “ … We just better be on whatever blockings assignments we have. If one guy’s on the wrong page, we’ve got an issue.’’
It also won’t be a matter of simply sliding the protection to the rusher doing to the most damage, either. The Raiders have nine sacks distributed among seven players. Defensive end Jason Hunter has two to lead the way, and cornerback Tracy Porter (both are former Broncos) has 1.5.
“When you have multiple DBs on the field, you have multiple DBs rushing,’’ said Broncos coach John Fox. “ … They do do a lot of that.’’
Manning was not sacked last weekend against the Giants after being sacked three times in the season opener against the Ravens.
Broncos guard Chris Kuper practiced fully for the second consecutive day Friday. The eighth-year veteran has spent roughly a year and a half battling back from a dislocated ankle he suffered in the 2011 regular-season finale, as well as the multiple surgeries and infection that followed. Kuper has been a gameday inactive in the Broncos' first two games this season, but Fox said following Friday’s practice that Kuper continues to close in on being game-ready. “He’s doing well, he’s getting better every day … when he stops having soreness and is able to put a whole week together, he could even be in the mix this week,’’ Fox said. Given Kuper’s versatility -- he worked sparingly at center in training camp and the Broncos consider him a stop-gap option there, he will almost certainly be in the mix at tackle as well moving forward. With left tackle Ryan Clady on injured reserve, the Broncos will have to address depth issues at the position. After current starter Chris Clark, they do not have a player who has predominantly been a left tackle in the NFL on the depth chart. Winston Justice, signed Wednesday, has been a right tackle for most of this career. Zane Beadles was a left tackle at Utah in his college career and played some tackle early in his career with the Broncos before being moved inside to guard. Fox has said repeatedly he wants to work guards like Beadles and Kuper at tackle from time to time, so they could play there at game speed if needed.
Broncos’ guard Louis Vasquez has been one of the least penalized players in the league in his career -- he was not flagged for a penalty in either of the 2011 or 2012 seasons with the Chargers. But he was flagged for a false start in the opener against the Ravens. He did not have one of the 13 penalties the Broncos were assessed against the Giants this past Sunday. The Broncos had eight of those penalties against New York called on defensive backs, several of which the Broncos challenged with the league’s officiating department this week in their weekly review. Before the opener, Vasquez’ last penalty had been a false-start penalty on a field-goal attempt Oct. 24, 2010, against the Patriots. The only other time Vasquez had been flagged in his career was for holding in Week 6 of his rookie season (2009), but the penalty was declined.
Safety Rahim Moore, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a sideline hit on Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks this past Sunday, was not fined for the play. Many of the Broncos players, because Moore had made first contact with Nicks with his shoulder, didn’t believe the play even warranted a penalty.
Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio on whether or not a running quarterback like the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor keeps him up at night more than a traditional drop-back passer; “I don’t like giving quarterbacks too much credit, but they all keep us up.’’
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