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Raiders must protect QB Derek Carr against fearsome Broncos defense

Derek Carr said last week that his No. 1 goal going into this season was “just to finish healthy.”

“I didn’t know I was going to get hit the most I ever have,” Carr said. “I don’t think any of us saw that happening.”

After suffering significant injuries in each of the previous two seasons, the Raiders quarterback has usually bounced back from those hits this year — even as they’ve kept on coming.

Carr has taken a career-high 47 sacks, third among NFL quarterbacks through Week 15, and with two games to play against defenses that rank in the top 10 in sacks this season.

The Broncos, featuring the edge-rushing duo of Von Miller (14.5 sacks) and Bradley Chubb (12), will take aim at Carr in the teams’ Christmas Eve matchup on Monday night.

Carr last week termed the Broncos defensive front “ridiculous,” while Denver head coach Vance Joseph described the luxury of lining up Miller — the franchise’s all-time sacks leader — alongside Chubb, who leads NFL rookies in sacks this season having shifted from a rush-end role in college to playing outside linebacker in Denver.

“We’ve got three or four rushers that can play,” Joseph said in a conference call. “What happens is, it allows you to get more one-on-ones. (Offenses) can’t just slide the line to Von and then turn backside on Chubb, and then give Chubb one-on-ones. I think the protections become more fair, as far as how teams game-plan.”

Carr was sacked only once in a Week 2 loss at Denver, as he completed 29 of 32 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders didn’t give Denver’s pass-rush much time to strike, as Carr had an average release time of 2.34 seconds — his second-fastest in a game this season (behind 2.26 in Week 14 in a win over the Steelers), according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

Joseph said the Raiders “did a nice job of getting a lot of free access” in that game, as Carr became the first NFL quarterback to complete 90 percent of his passes in a game with 30-plus attempts.

“That’s his talent,” Joseph said. “If you don’t pressure this guy, he can truly pick you apart.”

Carr, though, has felt plenty of pressure since.

The Raiders’ offensive line, notably more intact in Week 2, has fragmented. Right tackle Donald Penn suffered a groin injury in Week 4 and hasn’t played since. Left guard Kelechi Osemele has missed the past two games because of a toe injury. Right guard Gabe Jackson went on injured reserve last week with an elbow injury. Left tackle Kolton Miller struggled playing through a knee injury.

Osemele is expected to return Monday night, which Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said should also help Miller, who in Oakland’s previous game allowed two sacks and eight pressures against Cincinnati, according to Pro Football Focus. Carr was sacked five times against the Bengals, the sixth time in nine games that he’s taken four or more.

Broncos (6-8) at Raiders (3-11)

Time: 5:15 p.m. Monday Where: Oakland Coliseum

TV:Channel: 7ESPN Radio: 740, 95.7, 106.9

Spotlight on: Raiders LT Kolton Miller. The rookie first-round pick had a rocky outing last game against the Bengals, allowing two sacks and eight pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller has allowed 14 sacks, most among NFL linemen this season, and 59 pressures. He’ll likely get a heavy dose of Von Miller, the Broncos’ franchise sacks leader, who is riding a career-high streak of nine games with a sack.

Roster report: Raiders — CB Gareon Conley (concussion), DT Maurice Hurst (ankle) and CB Daryl Worley (shoulder) are questionable. Broncos — CB Brendan Langley (concussion) is out; TE Matt LaCosse (ankle) and LB Shane Ray (illness) are questionable.

Things to watch for

The Broncos have one of this year’s best NFL stories in running back Phillip Lindsay, who last week became the first undrafted offensive player to make a Pro Bowl as a rookie. Lindsay has run for 991 yards and nine touchdowns, and he totaled 107 yards on 14 carries against Oakland in Week 2.

Derek Carr needs 303 passing yards to reach 4,000 in a season for the first time. Carr also needs 34 completions to pass Peyton Manning for the most by any NFL quarterback in his first five seasons. He has not thrown an interception in his past 299 pass attempts, the NFL’s longest current streak.

With the Raiders currently homeless for 2019, Monday could be their last game in Oakland. The possibility, mixed with Christmas Eve and “Monday Night Football,” could make for an odd vibe at the 52-year-old Coliseum. If this is indeed the end, can the Raiders treat their Oakland fans to one last win?

— Matt Kawahara

“We have to improve on that,” Gruden said last week. “Not just the offensive line and the play-calling. (Carr) has to improve on that. He’ll tell you that. But I think he’s a heck of a quarterback. We lost some receivers, we lost some running backs, we lost several linemen. He’s continuing to be productive. He’s totally into it. He’s totally invested. I’m excited about that.”

Carr said the changes on offense are “just the way it’s been” this season and that “my body has held up great.” He credited his training and nutrition regimens with helping him recover quickly after games, though when asked whether he has taken fewer full-body blows as part of his sack total, Carr responded: “I wish I could say I didn’t.”

Still, Carr has compiled impressive numbers in his fifth NFL season and first under Gruden, with 3,697 yards, a completion percentage of 68.4 and no interceptions in his past nine games. Amid the hits, Carr said: “I actually feel good.”

“Honestly, it’s helping me be better,” Carr said. “Understanding that in the pocket it’s not going to be perfect at times this year as I’m used to — it’s made me a better player, to be honest.”

Matt Kawahara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @matthewkawahara

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