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Three Keys to Broncos-Raiders

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --It's not the start of a new season, but for the Broncos, their Week 12 trip to Oakland is a new beginning.

It will see Paxton Lynch's first start of the 2017 regular season after he spent the first 10 weeks of the campaign recovering from a sprained right shoulder. That tenure was followed by one week as the backup to Brock Osweiler.

It will also see Bill Musgrave assume the play-calling responsibilities in his first game as Denver's offensive coordinator. The former Broncos quarterback is tasked with creating a "simplified" offense that maximizes Lynch's possibilities while minimizing the risk of turnovers that have paralyzed the Broncos during their six-game losing streak.

"As a coach, you have to sometimes take some variables from players," Head Coach Vance Joseph said Wednesday. "If there's five variables on the play, as a coach take three away and give them two. That can cut back on giving the football away. If everyone's on the same page and playing fast, that should help us."

Running back C.J. Anderson expects the scheme to change "just a little bit" now that Musgrave is calling the plays, but the point at which the Broncos sit in the season prevents something more extensive.

"At the end of the day, we're in Week 12," Anderson said. "We've been doing this since April. To try and put a brand-new scheme in one week would be tough."

Still, there are things that Musgrave and the Broncos can do to change the offense, stop the losing streak and restart the Broncos down a successful path.



For Lynch, that means making the run an option and giving him a chance to find a rhythm with short, quick throws, which could look similar to the third quarter of the preseason opener at Chicago. In that game, Lynch found his footing with a series of short passes after struggling before halftime.

"Running the football is always a must for a young quarterback and giving him a chance to have some easy completions. That's also a must for young quarterbacks," Joseph said.

"I'm looking forward to watching him play because he can run around. His skill set is perfect when you're young. If it breaks down, he can run with the football. I told him, 'Just play. Don't try to be a pocket passer. We call a play and it's not there, take off and run.'"

The work Lynch received on the first team during OTAs and training camp also provides a foundation from which he can build.

"I think it helped him tremendously," Anderson said. "In the time during training camp when [Lynch and Trevor Siemian] were battling for the job, he got to see some good looks from our defense.

"One thing I told him -- that is crazy and I told him all the way back in September -- [is that] you're just one play away," Anderson said. "You never know it. He was one play away.

"At the time when Billy was the QB coach, [I told Lynch to] be back there letting Billy know what the reads are, where the ball should go or what coverage it is. Be annoying, kind of how I was. Be annoying.

"He's done that and he's ready now."



Two of the three touchdowns the Broncos allowed last week came on possessions that began in Denver territory because of giveaways, continuing an issue that has persisted throughout the season.

Joseph has reiterated his desire to see his team play a "clean game -- meaning even-to-plus in turnover [margin]," he said. This is a huge part of keeping the Raiders out of short-field situations.

"We have to play complementary football and not turn the football over," Joseph said.


Only one tight end -- Kansas City's Travis Kelce -- has been more productive in the last five weeks than Cook, who has averaged 81.5 yards on 5.2 receptions per game in that span. Meanwhile, the Broncos have allowed a touchdown to an opposing tight end in four consecutive games and five of their last six contests.

"Watching him over the years, he's been a guy who's always had great long speed and had great receiving skills," Joseph said. "Watching him in Green Bay last year, he had a great year.

"I'm not surprised that he is playing so well the last month; he has a great skill set. He's long and tall with speed."

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