ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos' defense faces a unique challenge in this weekend's division opener against Oakland.
The collective team speed of the Raiders, the talent of running back Darren McFadden, the hostility between the two teams – none of those things are new to the Oakland-Denver rivalry. The added wrinkle this year is Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen, who was Denver's defensive coordinator at this time last year.
At 39, Allen is the youngest coach in the NFL. He said the year he spent running the Broncos' D under Head Coach John Fox was valuable to his progress.
"Foxy and I have developed a good relationship," Allen said. "Obviously, I have a lot of respect for him and think he's a heck of a football coach. I asked him his thoughts and opinions and he gave them to me and went over the pluses and minuses with me. He gave them to me and he understood that at the end of the day, I have to make my decision based on whatever I think is best for me and my family. He was very supportive."
Fox compared Allen to Jack Del Rio, his replacement as Denver's defensive coordinator. Like Allen, Del Rio was able to land a head coaching position after one season as Fox's defensive coordinator back in 2002. After that season, which was Fox's first as Carolina's head coach and Del Rio's first as defensive coordinator, Del Rio took over as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In preparing for his return to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Allen has recognized the Broncos' defensive attitude, even if the scheme has changed since his departure.
"It looks like they're playing a little bit more quarters coverage, from a defensive standpoint," Allen said. "They're still applying a lot of the same principles. They play extremely hard, they run fast to the ball, they play their corners up tight on the outside and get up on receivers. Schemes are a little bit different, but as far as the culture and the way they play defense, they play extremely well."
Cornerback Champ Bailey didn't deny that Allen will be familiar with some of the Broncos' defensive game plan. But he doesn't expect that to translate to any significant leg up for the opposition.
"Our defense is different," Bailey said. "He's on top of it but there's only so much he can do in the 30 seconds he's going to have to try to warn his guys about what we're doing. Maybe it can be a half-time adjustment but it is what it is. We've got to go play our game. He can't go out there and play, so I'm not really worried about what he's telling them."
While Allen knows what to expect from Denver's defense, he doesn't expect his background to have much influence on what happens on the field.
"At the end of the day, it's all about matchups, and our guys have to out-execute the Broncos," Allen said. "I know (the Broncos defenders) are extremely talented. They play hard, they play fast and they're very well-coached. It'll certainly be a challenge."
In addition to Allen's relationships with Fox and the Broncos who return from a year ago, he also has a strong connection to cornerback , dating back to Allen's days with the New Orleans Saints from 2008-10.
"I was fortunate I had Tracy when he was a young player, so I had a chance to mold him a little bit," Allen said of Porter. "That was one of the things with him coming out of college, he didn't always finish plays all the time. So we tried to stay on him. He's had a lot of success in this league and he's a very good football player. I'm sure the Broncos are glad they got him."