DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos will watch running back Javonte Williams ‘ workload as he continues his comeback from a major knee injury that cost him most of last season.
They don’t expect the Las Vegas Raiders to similarly ease the league’s reigning rushing champion back into action after Josh Jacobs’ protracted contract dispute kept him out most of the summer.
“I think he’ll have the freshest legs on the field Sunday,” said Alex Singleton, the Broncos’ leading tackler a year ago.
The AFC West foes kick off their seasons at Empower Field with the Broncos trying to snap a six-game losing streak to the Raiders. It’s a skid many fans feel is more painful than Denver’s 15-game losing streak to the Chiefs because, well, Kansas City is good, at least.
The Raiders have been bad for a while. They’re coming off their fourth losing season in six years. The Broncos have been even worse, posting six straight losing seasons while churning through coaches and quarterbacks.
Jacobs led the NFL in rushing with 1,653 yards last season. He didn’t want to play under the $10.1 million franchise tag, so he sat out until two weeks ago, when he and the Raiders finally agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $12 million.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels indicated during training camp that Jacobs likely would receive a similar workload as last season, when he had nearly 400 touches between rushing and receiving. McDaniels also said a player needs practice time to get up to speed.
So, Sunday will show if two weeks was sufficient for Jacobs to get reacclimated to football and accustomed to QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who has replaced Derek Carr.
Garoppolo said Jacobs knows the offense “but just getting on the same page with him, a couple swing routes, check-down routes, things like that” is what the pair has been working on. “We’re trying to get on the same page. With the run game I mean he’s as good as they come, so it makes my job pretty easy.”
The Broncos are breaking in a new offense under new coach Sean Payton, whose dual mission is to resuscitate a franchise and rescue both Russell Wilson’s career and the $245 million investment the team’s owners made in way of a five-year extension before Wilson posted the worst season of his career in 2022.
Payton concurs with the notion you don’t fix Wilson, you find him.
It’s not all hugs and handshakes at Raiders headquarters. Defensive end Chandler Jones once again took to social media to criticize team officials, posting and then deleting Wednesday night that the club sent someone from the city of Las Vegas’ crisis response team to his home. He also threatened to publicize unspecified information on McDaniels if Jones doesn’t play Sunday.
Earlier in the week, Jones criticized McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, saying he was locked out of the team facility.
McDaniels was asked about Jones when he met with the media on Wednesday and called it a “private matter.”
Payton’s predecessor, Nathaniel Hackett, couldn’t wrap his head around some of his players’ hate of the Raiders last year. His indifference to the heated nature of the rivalry puzzled Broncos fans who have long loathed the Raiders, no matter if the silver and black were in Oakland, Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
Payton didn’t exactly embrace the rivalry, either.
“I think of rivalries as college football,” Payton said, who added, “Division games are important. The first goal is to find a way to win your division. You play your divisional opponents twice. I can’t speak for rivalries. I just think that exists a little bit more in the collegiate game, and I think division games are important, yes.”
Garoppolo most recently played for San Francisco, helping the 49ers reach two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. He missed organized team activities and minicamp because of a broken foot suffered last season, leaving him with some catching up to do in training camp.
“It was a little different with the foot this offseason and getting that right,” Garoppolo said. “Just getting back into the right feel and things like that. You’re always trying to improve things, little details here and there, a certain route with a guy, timing on a route. There was a lot of that this offseason just being in a new offense and everything. But I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson contributed to this report.