DENVER (KDVR) — There is nothing like the NFL kickoff weekend for coaches, players and fans.
“That first game is just a little extra special,” said former Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley. “The excitement there for that first game is just a little bit more than most regular season games.”
The Denver Broncos open the 2023 NFL season against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
Sean Payton downplayed the rivalry that dates back to 1960s, when the two teams were members of the American Football League. But the Broncos’ new head coach may be the key to ending the team’s six-game losing streak to their AFC West Division foes.
“(Sean Payton) has been through it all. He’s a Super Bowl-winning coach,” Stokley said. “He knows what it takes to win, and I’m excited to see what (that) looks like.”
How will Sean Payton handle the offensive scheme?
With wide receiver Jerry Jeudy limited this week at practice because of a hamstring injury and questionable to play against the Raiders, the Broncos may have to rethink their game plan.
Stokley believes Payton will simplify the offensive scheme by going back to basics.
“Run the football and run the football successfully. If you can do that, you take pressure off of (quarterback) Russell Wilson (and) the passing game. I think the running game is important, not only for the offense but for Russell Wilson,” Stokley said.
Wilson hopes to rebound from his worst season as a professional. He was also sacked 55 times, the most in a single season in Broncos history.
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton invested heavily in offensive linemen during free agency, signing right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers to keep pressure off of Wilson and to reenergize the rushing attack.
Stokley said the offensive line improvements should pay dividends, but there are still some things he would like to see from Wilson this season.
“How he looks in the pocket, if he (can) hang in there a little bit longer than we saw last year,” Stokley said. “I think watching him go through his reads and progression. And hopefully, we see a different Russ this year.”