All the Raiders can hope to do is slow Manning down.
While all might seem lost for Oakland's defense, there are a number of players who may be able to execute this to an extent worth noting. Three in particular—defensive end Lamarr Houston and cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and rookie D.J. Hayden—have a shot at doing just that.
Aside from veteran safety Charles Woodson, the Raiders do not typically boast a well-known defense. Oakland's 2013 first-round draft pick Hayden may be the only other worthy player of note. Yet even he does not receive the accolades often given to other players around the league.
Yet these three may receive a shot at showcasing their talents against Manning and the Broncos, even if predictions state that it will be in a losing effort
Slowing down an elite quarterback begins with generating a pass rush.
Houston may be the best option for Oakland in this regard.
While Manning has been sacked only three times thus far, Houston will hope to increase that number tonight. He already has a sack in the Raiders' first two games thus far, and his ability to rush the passer will potentially force Manning to move out of the pocket.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Houston finished 2012 with a 16.5 overall rating and as the No. 9 defensive end out of 62 eligible players. Gil Alcarez of Rant Sports feels that Houston is Oakland's best player overall.
Still, most NFL fans know little about the former Raiders' second-round pick of the 2010 draft.
Granted, forcing sacks against one of the best offensive lines will be a tough challenge for Houston and Oakland's defense. Yet if he can hurry Manning, even a little bit, the Raiders' secondary will have an easier time slowing Manning down.
Assuming that Houston and the rest of Oakland's front seven do their job to a certain extent, Jenkins may be another player that has an impact against the Broncos.
Fans forget that Jenkins is a Pro Bowl-caliber corner from his days with the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, after being signed by Oakland in the offseason, Jenkins lines up as the No. 1 corner for the Raiders. He could face off against Demaryius Thomas which has been a favorite target for Manning thus far into 2013.
That will be no easy task.
Yet as Bleacher Report AFC Wast lead writer Christopher Hansen tweets, Jenkins has been pretty stellar in locking down opposing receivers in 2012.
Perhaps Oakland will count on Jenkins to do some more of that tonight. Shutting down Thomas will be a big part of the Raiders' scheme.
If Thomas does not face off against Jenkins, it is possible that the lofty task falls upon Hayden.
This was tweeted out by Raiders Tribune, which could spell a lot of highlights for Hayden. The only question is whether or not he will be the star in each of those highlights.
In either case, Hayden has the opportunity to show why Oakland drafted him in the first round this year. Sure, he will likely make some mistakes against Manning and his corps of receivers, but if Hayden is able to do a few things right, Denver's offense might have to look elsewhere to exploit Oakland's defense.
Hayden is looking forward to the challenge of going up against Manning as he stated via The San Mateo Daily Journal:
Your technique has to be even better this week. Your technique, alignment, assignments, key reads—it all has to be better because you’re going against a great player. Just OK is not going to cut it. I just have to finish and be more aggressive on the ball. When the ball’s thrown and they’re about to catch it, be more aggressive on the breaks. If I do that, I should be all right.
Hayden needs to translate those words into his performance on the field. He is a rookie and rookies make mistakes. Yet rookies can also show promise. Oakland will hope for more of the latter.
The Raiders defense will certainly have their work cut out against the Broncos. There is no doubting that they will have a challenge on their hands and likely will not be able to keep Manning in check for very long.
Yet there are a number of players, some of whom are not well-known, who may factor into the final equation.
Oakland has a few things riding on this game aside from the division rivalry. Getting the best out of players like Houston, Jenkins and Hayden is a part of the team's expectations.
As the Raiders look to rebuild their franchise, they will hopefully count on performances from these guys as a step in the right direction.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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