Gone is Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. Gone also is Denver’s 3-4 defensive alignment and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
All three were trampled last season by the Oakland Raiders in 59-14 and 39-23 blowout losses that helped seal the fates of McDaniels and Martindale and turn the Broncos into a much different team for a season-opening rematch with Oakland Monday night in Denver.
At least that’s what the Broncos hope has happened. The memories of last year’s lopsided losses to Oakland still sting.
“It was just terrible,” Denver linebacker Joe Mays told CBSsports.com this week, citing in particular the 59-14 loss. “It’s one of those things where you want to forget it, but it’s still in the back of your head.”
The Raiders piled up 508 yards and 502 yards of offense against the Broncos, and Darren McFadden ran for 284 yards and four TDs combined in the two games.
Now, defensive-minded John Fox has replaced McDaniels, the Broncos have adopted the 4-3 scheme and Dennis Allen has stepped in to be Denver’s sixth defensive coordinator in six seasons. It’s hoped in the Rockies that Denver can correct the flaws that caused the Broncos to rank No. 1 in the NFL in yards and points allowed per game, last in sacks (just 23) and second-to-last in interceptions (10).
The return of defensive end Elvis Dumervil and addition of rookie linebacker and pass-rush specialist Von Miller should also help.
Hue Jackson, who makes his official debut as head coach of the Raiders Monday night, is eager to get under way, but says what happened last year has no bearing on Game 1 of the new season.
“They’re talking about last year,” Jackson told Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. “We’re not talking about last year. We’re talking about now. This team has to go lay its statement and leave its legacy on what they do this season, not what they did last year.”
To that end, Jackson put his team through practice Wednesday night under the lights, to get ready for Monday Night Football, Corkran reported. It’s part of his plan to give his team an excitement and attitude to “build a bully” and build on the 8-8 record of 2010.
The Raiders will have a quarterback in Jason Cambell who has a year under his belt playing in Campbell's system, a trio of explosive backs in McFadden, Michael Bush and rookie Taiwan Jones, a game-breaking receiver/returner in Jacoby Ford and an offensive line that performed well in the exhibition season, thanks in part to the addition of rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski.
Oakland’s defense will have to deal with quarterback Kyle Orton – who survived a summer challenge from Tim Tebow – and receiver Brandon Lloyd, who led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards.
Oddsmakers have the game about even.
Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour says he can’t wait for kickoff. The feeling on this team is much more optimistic now than in past years, he told Corkran.
“It’s night and day,” Seymour says. “It isn’t even close. … Now we’ve got to translate it into wins and losses. Every year I’ve been here we’ve won more games. Hopefully, we’ll get to double digits this year.”