The Denver Broncos’ lost season is going south quickly after falling 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Denver (2-4) has dropped four in a row, sits three games behind Kansas City in the AFC West and desperately needs a win Thursday in Arizona.
To get that win the Broncos will have to overcome some big injuries. Left guard Ronald Leary is lost for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon on Sunday, and a spate of other ailments will test Denver’s depth.
Linebacker Shane Ray was sporting a walking boot on his left foot Monday and safety Adam Jones and tackle Jared Veldheer were in the trainer’s room, uncertain if they can play on a short week.
Leary’s injury shakes up Denver’s offensive line. Max Garcia will move into Leary’s starting spot and Sam Jones will be his backup. But losing Leary is a blow to the line.
“It’s a huge loss for us from a leadership perspective,” coach Vance Joseph said Monday. “From a player perspective it’s a huge loss. We have great depth in that room, obviously, with (guard Connor) McGovern and Max Garcia being the starters now, and Sam Jones dressing on game day. We’ll see how that works out, but I feel good about that room. I do.”
Leary’s teammates are disappointed he is done for the season.
“Ron Leary is a hell of a football player,” tackled Garett Bolles said. “You guys already know how good he is and what he brings to this team and everyone in this locker room knows how important he is to our organization. Having someone like that go down is a tough situation and puts us in a tight spot. Our mentality is ‘next man up’ and we have to perform no matter what. We got a game in three days, so him here or without him, we have to get ready.”
TORN TO SHREDS: Denver’s defense allowed a 200-yard rusher for the second straight game after Todd Gurley II rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Gurley doing it is bad enough but the Broncos allowed the New York Jets to pile up 323 yards on the ground – 219 by Isaiah Crowell – the week before.
It is surprising since Denver boasts a strong linebacker corps and a solid defensive line. But teams have spread out formations to create more openings.
“Our run defense in our nickel package has not been good at all,” Joseph said. “Versus the base stuff, it’s been OK, but versus the three-wide, one-tight, one-back stuff, it’s been bad the last two weeks. It’s really about fits. It’s about tackling. It’s about calls. It’s all those things. It hasn’t been good. It’s got to get better quickly.”
The Broncos will face another strong runner in Arizona’s David Johnson on Thursday.
DECISION TIME: Safety Su’a Cravens and wide receiver Jordan Taylor will take part in practice over the next two weeks to see how they’re progressing from their surgeries. Cravens had knee surgery in September and Taylor had surgery on both hips in the offseason. The Broncos will have to decide soon if both players will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season or be activated.
Cravens missed the first three preseason games but played in the last one. However, his knee was swollen after the game and he underwent arthroscopic surgery. He said he feels fine now.
“My knee actually did great with the rehab that they’ve been doing and I’ve been doing a lot of lower body stuff,” Cravens said Monday. “My bottom half is a lot stronger than it was before. I’ll feel confident when I get back out there.”