As the Broncos prepare to take on the Raiders in Week 11, getting the run game rolling may be the offense's top priority.
"I think for any offense, when you can develop the run game, it obviously keeps the defense honest, opens up the offense more," running back Latavius Murray said Thursday. "So, we obviously are always striving to run the ball efficiently."
One significant factor for the run game's recent struggles has been the influx of new faces on the offensive line. The unit has experienced several injuries throughout the season, but Murray emphasized that regardless of which players take the field, they are expected to do their job and make plays.
"It's a next-man-up mentality, so obviously we still want to be able to run things we do well, so just those guys filling in and stepping up [is important]," Murray said. "We can't make any excuses. It's a part of the game, and so we'll just look for those guys to step up."
One player who could provide a boost to the run game is offensive lineman Tom Compton, who started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list after having back surgery in the offseason. The 11-year veteran has played in similar systems, including the 49ers' run-heavy offense from 2020-21, and he could be ready to play by Sunday.
"It's what I was brought here to do: Do the run game, get it rolling," Compton said. "I can only speak for myself and the O-line in general, and it feels like we have a different group in there all the time, and it's tough. At the end of the day, there's no excuse; you've got to go out there and perform the best that you can. But this stuff takes time, man. And I know it's tough because everyone wants to win now, and that's definitely our goal, what we're doing, but like I said, it's difficult and we're working hard. ... I see the guys working hard, and it'll start clicking here."
On Sunday, the offensive line will be tested by the Raiders' physical defensive front. Defensive end Maxx Crosby's 14 tackles for loss are tied for the league lead, and the Broncos will be challenged to keep him out of the backfield.
"[Crosby's] playing at a really high level," Offensive Coordinator Justin Outten said. "I think he leads the league right now in defensive ends with tackles for loss right now. He's an extremely violent player that plays with a great motor, so accounting for him was something that we looked at, obviously, throughout the game [in Week 4 vs. Las Vegas], but we didn't have a lot of answers for some of the stuff he was doing as far as his alignments. This game, [we're planning for] ways to get around that, things to affect him. ... So just being a little bit smarter with what we're calling, what we're asking our guys to do, putting them in the best situation possible."
Murray added that, in the end, getting the run game rolling against the Raiders will come down to each player doing their assignment.
"You've got to win your matchups," Murray said. "That's where it starts, and then obviously making sure we do our part with any opportunities we can to help out, but I think winning the matchups [is important]. They've got some good 'backers, they bring some pressure too, so for us, also winning the matchups, giving Russ some time [will be key]."
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The rivalry between the Broncos and Raiders is one of the most historic rivalries in professional sports, and Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Thursday that winning this AFC West matchup would hold extra weight for the Broncos.
"This has been one of the greatest rivalries in football for forever, I think," Hackett said. "For 60 years. I know how much it means to the fans and the players in that room. It's Raiders week. For us, there's not a lot of [necessary extra] motivation. We want to get a win, but it's something even more inspiring when you're playing the Raiders because of how great this rivalry is. For me, it's just looking back on all of those days watching the Broncos. Those were the ones that were on 'Monday Night Football' and the ones that you wanted to watch. … It's great for our game to have these kinds of rivalries. It's great to see that. It doesn't matter what your record is. It's going to be a great game."