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Raiders to make a run for it

September 08, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Ten running backs rushed for at least 100 yards against Oakland last season.

Tonight, the Raiders hope to return the favor.

Armed with first-year tailback Darren McFadden, who some observers say is the club's most complete rookie back since Marcus Allen, the Raiders will open their season against Denver at McAfee Coliseum. The game is the second half of a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader.

The Broncos ranked 30th against the run last season, one spot ahead of Oakland, and are bracing for a back who was one of six this preseason to average at least five yards per carry.

For the Raiders, of course, it all starts with quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, who started one game last season and played in three others. Unlike his rookie season, he was at training camp this summer and said he's far more prepared to take over the offense.

"Going through the spring [workouts] and being there for training camp in the summer, I learned a lot," Russell told reporters. "I'm deep in the playbook now. . . . You're going to see a much different guy this year."

The Raiders, who are a league-worst 19-61 since 2003, are definitely looking for a change. So are the Broncos, who have failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons, an eternity in a city that expects a contender every year.

Denver has infused its roster with youth, and will start rookies at two key offensive positions -- left tackle Ryan Clady and receiver Eddie Royal.

Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who threw 20 touchdown passes last season, will be without his top target. Wideout Brandon Marshall is serving a one-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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