Young Raiders tackle girds for Broncos' big pass rush

Published: Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012 - 7:31 am

ALAMEDA – Willie Smith isn't exactly easing into his first season with the Raiders. Pressed into a starting role by right tackle Khalif Barnes' groin injury, Smith drew the Pittsburgh Steelers last week and faces one of the NFL's most formidable pass-rush duos in Denver on Sunday.

Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller combined for 21 sacks last season, with Miller being named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Dumervil has the fifth-most sacks per game (.69) of any player since his rookie season in 2006.

Dumervil is listed as the Broncos' right end, meaning he would line up across from left tackle Jared Veldheer, with Miller typically rushing off the other side. But Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who was the defensive coordinator in Denver last year, said both rushers can play either side, meaning the tackles must prepare for either.

"Both (Smith) and Jared will have … a real challenge," said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. "(Dumervil and Miller) aren't the tallest guys rushing off the edge, but they're (two) of the quickest and (two) of the best leverage rushers I've seen."

Miller, listed at just 237 pounds, had 11.5 sacks as a rookie and has three in three games this year. That he's "not just a one-trick pony" rushing the passer, Allen said, makes him dangerous.

"He's got a lot of different moves," Allen said. "He's got speed off the edge, he's got the ability to counter, he's got excellent power."

Smith, who played four games in Washington last year as an undrafted rookie and joined the Raiders earlier this month, said that on film of Denver he has even seen the two rushers line up on the same side.

"It comes down to you having good fundamentals every play," Smith said. "That's why you come to the NFL is to get to play against the best, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Heyward-Bey speaks – Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said he doesn't remember the hit that knocked him out of last Sunday's game against the Steelers with a concussion and neck strain.

Nor does he recall the immediate aftermath. Heyward-Bey had to be carted off the field after about 10 minutes following the fourth-quarter hit by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy, on which the top of Mundy's helmet caught Heyward-Bey flush on the face mask.

"I don't remember any of it," said Heyward-Bey, who added his first memory is "riding off on the cart," at which point he raised his right hand to the crowd.

The replacement officiating crew did not throw a flag on the play. The league, however, hit Mundy with a $21,000 fine. Heyward-Bey spent Sunday night in the hospital.

"(Mundy) texted me, and I told him, 'Hey, it's football,' " Heyward-Bey said. "That's just football. I signed up to put on the pads and go out there. That's what happens out there. People get hit, people get hurt. It happens."

Heyward-Bey watched practice on the field Friday and is officially listed as doubtful on the Raiders' injury report. He still must go through the process of being cleared under league concussion protocol.

Injury report – Barnes (groin) and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) are the only Raiders ruled out for Sunday.

For the Broncos, safety Quinton Carter (knee) is out, while guard Chris Kuper (forearm) is doubtful.

Tight end Brandon Myers (concussion) is listed as questionable, but Allen said Myers was cleared for contact and is "in good shape" to play. Receiver Rod Streater also is questionable after tweaking his neck in practice Friday, as are running back Mike Goodson (hamstring) and tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring).

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