The Las Vegas Raiders will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 1 of the 2023 season. To get you prepared for that game, we spoke with Jon Heath of Broncos Wire to talk about the Broncos and his thoughts on the team entering the year.
1) What kind of impact has HC Sean Payton had so far with the Broncos?
Russell Wilson has been much less in the spotlight, which was the direct influence of Payton. Players have been much less available — and vocal — with the media as well, and Payton is not as forthcoming as ex-coach Nathaniel Hackett often was in 2022.
It’s the Bill Parcells way that Payton has embraced. Those aspects of the team mostly impact the media. Time will tell how Payton’s arrival impacts their performance on the field.
Payton signed a fullback, a running back, a blocking tight end and two high-priced offensive linemen shortly after he arrived, so it seems safe to assume he plans to pound the rock in 2023.
2) Have you seen any kind of improvement in QB Russell Wilson in Year 2?
It’s hard to say on the field because Wilson only briefly played in preseason and it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from training camp practices. Off the field, Wilson has been out of the spotlight more, which may or may not help him focus on a bounce-back year this fall.
For whatever reason, Hackett seemed to want Wilson to be more of a pocket passer last year and Payton has given him the freedom to use his legs this summer.
Payton will aim to tailor the offense to Wilson’s strengths, something Hackett did not do a good job of last season. Leading a run-heavy offense and getting opportunities to make plays on the run might help Wilson get back on track.
3) What is the status of WR Jerry Jeudy going into Week 1?
Payton is often secretive about injuries and Jeudy is no different. So a guess would be that Jeudy (hamstring) is iffy for Sunday’s game. We’ll know more on Friday when a final injury report is released with game statuses, but for now, all we can do is speculate. He worked on the side at Monday’s light practice (Denver was off Tuesday).
4) Who is an under-the-radar player to watch for the Broncos this week?
Jonathon Cooper unexpectedly won a starting OLB spot this summer with Baron Browning (knee) sidelined. After Browning went down, the Broncos brought in veteran Frank Clark, who was considered the clear favorite to start across from Randy Gregory in Week 1.
Instead, Cooper impressed during training camp and started over Clark in preseason, and he’s now listed as a starter on the depth chart. A former seventh-round pick, Cooper certainly isn’t a household name, but he totaled 4.5 sacks through his first two seasons in the NFL and he might be poised to take a step forward in Year 3. You can’t miss him — Cooper now wears No. 0.
5) Who wins and why?
I expect a run-heavy game on Sunday, and I expect Payton’s arrival to give Denver a boost. The Broncos have struggled against the Raiders in recent seasons, but some of Denver’s losses were very close.
Payton should improve the offense, and the defense has most of its key pieces returning from last season. So playing at home, I have the Broncos winning 27-21.