Raiders vs. Broncos: Matchups to watch

September 10, 2011, 4:48 am
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Sept. 9, 2011

GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.com

ALAMEDA -- Bittersweet does not begin to describe the Raiders' lot in 2010. They went unbeaten at 6-0 in the AFC West, yet just 2-8 outside of the division and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Heading into 2011, Oakland returns to the site of its greatest and most satisfying triumph, and on the biggest regular season stage in the game. Memories of the Raiders' 59-14 blowout of the Broncos last Oct. 24 in Denver still fresh in everyone's minds, the two play the final game of opening weekend on Monday Night Football.

In the wake of the NFL lockout -- both teams have new head coaches -- questions abound. A look, then, at some key matchups to watch Monday night:
Matchup to watch
Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes (69) vs. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil (92)

TALE OF THE TAPE
Barnes: 6-5, 325, Washington, seventh season
Dumervil: 5-11, 260, Louisville, fifth season

Two years ago, Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks. But he missed all of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle in training camp.

Barnes beat out rookie Joe Barksdale to win the right tackle position but had a rough go of it in the preseason with four false start penalties, three in the exhibition opener against Arizona.

So while Dumervill might actually line up more often across from Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer, Barnes will see more than his fair share of Dumervil in the Broncos' hybrid scheme, especially with sack-happy rookie linebacker Von Miller poised to create chaos from different parts of the field. And what makes the matchup all the more intriguing is combined experience and the size differential between the two.

Barnes may have a six-inch height advantage and weigh 65 pounds more, but Dumervil is much sleeker and faster. Plus, his lower center of gravity is an inherent advantage.

"He has natural leverage, good leverage to the ground already because of his size," Barnes said. "Good anchor and he plays (the) pass very well. And the rookie Von Miller, he has a little juice off the edge, too. So they've got two good pass rushers and me and Jared are going to have to be on our game that night.

"We have to bend to get down there. Those guys are already out-leveraging us naturally. So we're going to have to work to get up under their pads."

Broncos' first-year coach John Fox was asked to compare Dumervil to other players.

"(Dwight) Freeney coming out was looked at as undersized," Fox said. "Looking back, Jevon Kearse, when they first started in the 4-3 (defense was) a little bit smaller end. You used to have to be 6-5, 280 to play end in the National Football League. Just like your inside 'backers used to be real big guys. The game has gotten faster and with that speed, has become a little bit smaller.

"The thing that Elvis has is very long arms, which I think kind of off-sets his height."

Other matchups worth watching:

Hue Jackson vs. John Fox - A relatively young rookie coach who's never been a head coach at any level but is known for his offensive acumen in Jackson makes his debut on the Monday Night Football stage. Against a veteran, defensive-minded first-year coach who once worked for the Raiders in Fox, under those same primetime lights.

Opposites attract, and then some.

Jackson joined Mike Shanahan this preseason as the only Raiders coaches to go 0-4 in exhibitions but he was hamstrung by injuries. Now?

"I'm even more confident," Jackson said. "I have all my toys back, all my players are back. We're ready to play."

Fox, the Raiders' defensive coordinator in 1994 and 1995, was Carolina's head coach from 2002 through 2010.

"I hired John Fox," Raiders owner Al Davis reminded the gathering at Jackson's introductory media conference in January. "He was two years the coordinator here andafter failing in Carolina, he's the head coach in Denver."

Who blinks first in their respective debut?

Raiders vs. overconfidence - It's human nature, right? After all, the last time the Raiders visited Denver, they dropped a record 59 points on the Broncos. In three quarters, before taking the foot off the gas.

Darren McFadden had a career day with a career-high 165 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including three on the ground, while Sebastian Janikowski had eight touchbacks.

And then in the second meeting of the season, in Oakland, the Raiders won again, 39-23, to sweep the season series, 98-37, the largest single-season home-and-home differential in division play since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

So surely it must be in the back of the Raiders' heads that this will be another walk in the Mile High air, no?

Well, the players are saying al the right things. That last year was last year, and it doesn't matter what happened then, and this is a new year and yada, yada, yada.

We'll see how much they truly believe it.