ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In preparing for their Week 4 battle with Oakland, the Broncos are seeing many of the same things their 2011 opponents saw – a Dennis Allen-led defense.
That means Denver's offense must get reacquainted with a versatile scheme it was exposed to on a regular basis in practice a year ago, when Allen served as the Broncos' defensive coordinator.
"You see some Cover 2, you see some man (coverage)," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "They have a lot of different things, but it's some stuff we saw last year in practice because we had Coach Dennis. They switch it up a lot."
Allen, who was hired as the Raiders head coach after one season in Denver, now oversees a unit fresh off a strong finish in the team's first victory of the season. Against Pittsburgh, Oakland forced and recovered a key fourth-quarter fumble, then a punt in the closing minutes to set up a game-winning drive with time expiring in the team's 34-31 win over Pittsburgh.
"They've got a lot of athletes," wide receiver Eric Decker said of the Oakland defense. "They're fast, they swarm to the ball (and) they've got some big guys up front. We've got to do a good job of keeping them out of the backfield. We've got to take care of our business, and what we do offensively."
One player new to the Broncos' offense this season is quarterback Peyton Manning, who said that the Raiders' change at head coach limits how much material he can study between now and Sunday.
"It's a new defensive coordinator," Manning said. "Last year's film with Oakland does you no good. You're still kind of, a little bit of, 'What are they going to do? How are we going to react? Let's be prepared to adjust on the sideline if we have to,' but I think the key is that we have to execute our job better."
Over the years, regardless of who has called the plays for the Raiders, speed has been a staple. This year's defense fits that bill, and also features a powerful defensive line. It will be important for the Broncos to make sure that Oakland's speed doesn't disrupt the offensive flow.
"You think about the Raiders, you think about speed," Manning said. "They've got speed (at) the linebacker position and in the secondary. They've been pretty opportunistic, and created some huge turnovers against Pittsburgh there late in the game, stripping the ball. Their offense kind of fed off those turnovers, and that's really important. Those will be key things we've got to take care of."
In the last meeting between the Broncos and Raiders, Oakland running back Darren McFadden was sidelined with an injury. But in his three prior games against Denver, McFadden rushed for 434 yards on 58 carries, leading his team to a sweep in 2010 and a victory in the 2011 season opener.
The Broncos are intent on making sure McFadden doesn't enjoy another big day at their expense Sunday.
"He's a great player," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "He's definitely a key. We stop him, that's kind of the heart of their offense, the run game at least. So if we get him, we'll be alright."
This week, McFadden is coming off a productive outing against Pittsburgh, when he picked up 113 yards on 18 carries. Through three games, he is also the Raiders' leader in catches, with 17.
"I'd put that guy as one of the best running backs in the NFL by far," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "He can do it all, with his size and his speed and his ability to catch the ball and run the ball the way he does, to me he's one of the best in the NFL."
Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson approaches each game with the same goals. But he said McFadden is a player who demands extra attention.
"I'm a D-lineman, so stopping the run and then the pass, that's my mindset going into every week," Vickerson said. "But this week it's a little more focused. McFadden is a special back. To me, he's one of the most elite in the league."
Wide receiver Matthew Willis (hamstring), linebacker Nate Irving (concussion) and Quinton Carter (knee) all did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Running back Willis McGahee (ribs) and guard Chris Kuper (forearm) were limited. Cornerback Chris Harris (ankle), cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) and tight end Jacob Tamme (groin) were all listed as full on the Broncos' injury report.
McGahee said he feels much better than he did when he sustained it Sunday.
"(I feel) great," McGahee said. "Three days ago, that was tough, but today, I ran around, and I felt pretty good."
Tuesday also marked the first practice since training camp for Kuper (forearm), who was thrilled to return to the field after more than a month recovering from a broken forearm.
"I haven't seen him smile that big in a while," Head Coach John Fox said. "That's good. He's been battling through a couple different injuries so it's always good to see those guys out there."
For Oakland, tackle Khalif Barnes (groin), wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion/neck), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee) and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) did not participate.
Running back Mike Goodson (hamstring), kicker Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), nose tackle Tommy Kelly (knee), running back Darren McFadden (shoulder), tight end Brandon Myers (concussion), center/guard Alex Parsons (shoulder) and wide receiver Rod Streater (eye) were all limited.
Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) and defensive back Michael Huff (knee) participated fully.