View Full Version : Raiders, Miller could be good test for Broncos' Bruton

12-20-2009, 12:50 PM
Analysis: By Jeff Legwold
The Denver Post
Posted: 12/18/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has consistently lauded the mentoring abilities of Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill at safety.

And those teaching capabilities will be tested this weekend.

Hill, who left this past Sunday's game in Indianapolis with an ankle injury and did not return, has not practiced this week. And with his usual backup, Darcel McBath, on injured reserve with a fractured arm, rookie David Bruton is expected to play alongside Dawkins Sunday against the Raiders.

The Raiders have certainly not been proficient at throwing the ball for much of the season and will start their third different quarterback of '09 in Charlie Frye, but you would expect an NFL coaching staff to at least take a look at chucking a couple deep just to see if the Broncos have things ironed out.

With cornerbacks Champ Bailey and André Goodman able to lock up on wideouts 1-on-1 without much problem, the player who may get the look going right down the hashmarks is Raiders tight end Zach Miller.

Miller has missed two days worth of practice this week with a concussion, so he's certainly a question mark for Sunday. At the moment, he still leads the Raiders in catches with 50, runs well — and any tight end who can run in space is a difficult matchup for a defense, as the Broncos know, having watched Dallas Clark score three times Sunday for the Colts.

The Broncos even tried putting a cornerback, Ty Law, on Clark at times to stem the tide, but Law has missed practice time this week as well.

And with the contact rules being enforced as tightly as they are, a tight end that can run past a linebacker and is far bigger than most safeties can have some impact down the field.

Miller's backup, Tony Stewart, has just seven catches this season, so the Broncos would catch a break if Miller can't play.

Overall, though, three offenses in the league's top five in scoring - Indianapolis, San Diego and Philadelphia - each have a tight end who is also among the league's top 24 players in catches. Two of those tight ends, Clark and Antonio Gates, are in the league's top 11 in catches.

Bruton, at 219 pounds, was hand-timed by some scouts at 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine last February, so he has the straight-line speed to run with the pass-catching tight ends.

It will come down to how he plays the ball in traffic and if he can play with enough strength to keep a player like the 255-pound Miller from shielding the ball.

The Raiders don't have much going for them on offense these days, but it is important for the Broncos to keep them from doing what they've had some limited success doing - running the ball and getting it to Miller in the passing game.

Jeff Legwold: 303-954-2359 or jlegwold@denverpost.com