AFC West: Denver Broncos

W2W4: Broncos Week 3

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
7:30
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- New day, new year, new team. That has been the theme, all week, as the Denver Broncos have prepared to face the Seattle Seahawks.

And why not? This game is a rematch in name, but not really in depth charts. When the Broncos line up on defense Sunday in CenturyLink Field, they will start at least seven players on defense who did not play in the 35-point Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks. And defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams will be the only two defensive players still playing in the same spots as they did in that game.

“The guys who didn’t play in the Super Bowl, were hurt, or weren’t here yet, you’re always going to hope you would have made a difference,’’ said safety Rahim Moore.

And as the Broncos prepare for a Week 3 trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks (1-1), it will be the most significant test of the Broncos' hypothesis that this is a better team “on paper’’ than the one that lost this past February.

Some things to keep an eye on:
  • Against the Seahawks’ defense, the San Diego Chargers found room to work with a patient approach in terms of down-and-distance and by getting the ball out of Philip Rivers’ hand quickly. The Chargers' running backs and tight end Antonio Gates had 16 of the team’s 28 receptions combined in San Diego’s 31-20 win this past Sunday. Gates had all three of the team’s touchdowns. The Seahawks figure to adjust some, but the Broncos still have some matchups they can win with tight ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme to go with running back Montee Ball in the pattern.
  • The Seahawks were ruthlessly effective using their “rover’’ defensive back to limit the Broncos’ success with their bread-and-butter crossing routes in the Super Bowl. They also disrupted the Broncos’ timing on offense by manhandling the Broncos’ receivers in the 5-yard contact zone, preventing them from getting into their routes. It’s why the Broncos signed Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, because of Sanders’ ability to get into the pattern and the difficulty defensive backs have had in jamming him in his career. The Broncos haven’t yet shown they can consistently run the ball this season, so the Broncos need to possess the ball and may have to lean on a short- and intermediate-passing game to do it. To make that work the Broncos' receivers have to win the one-on-ones.
  • Of all the things that happened in the Super Bowl that the Broncos didn’t like -- and the list was long -- perhaps the one that troubled the team most was their failure to respond to some bad things that happened early in the game. It went bad and stayed bad. The Broncos need their marquee players, from quarterback Peyton Manning on down, to find that line between focused and way too tight. The team, particularly the offense, was way too tight in the title game.
  • Left tackle Ryan Clady makes a difference for the Broncos and it should be clear in this one. Clady allows the Broncos to move the help elsewhere across the offensive front. The Seahawks sacked Rivers just once this past Sunday. Rivers did run the ball 11 times to escape pressure, which Manning will not do that often, and Seattle got to Aaron Rodgers for three sacks in their opener. Clady gives the Broncos options that they’ll need because the Seahawks figure to press the issue a bit against right tackle Chris Clark and the Broncos will have to adjust.
  • Broncos head coach John Fox has consistently said the Broncos were prepared for what Percy Harvin can do in the Seahawks’ offense and on special teams, but that “it might not have looked like it.’’ Marshawn Lynch makes the Seahawks' offense go, but Harvin is the guy the Seahawks use to swing momentum. His plays often involve misdirection and flow; the backside defenders have to be disciplined and can't miss tackles for the Broncos.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio knows all about bend-but-don’t-break defense.

It’s just he’s not all that interested in either.

“I’m not looking for any bend," Del Rio said this week. “But at the end of the day, we want to make plays. It just so happens that we’re giving ourselves a chance and then coming up with plays to stop people from scoring in key moments. So that’s the good part: The resiliency, the determination, those are the good things. And we want to clean it up and not let it get like that. But it’s a constant battle … So like I said, we’re hard at work. We’re aware of things that need to be better. We’re working hard to make sure they get better."

When the Broncos take the field Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, the plan was for the Broncos’ remade defense to have shown itself ready for a Super Bowl rematch, for the defense to have shown it can be what both Del Rio and the players have said they believe it could be, and that’s a top-five unit. And two weeks into the regular season, the new faces have had plenty of impact, and the group has made a fourth-down, game-clinching play in each of the first two victories, over the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.

But the Broncos also find themselves 28th in the league in yards allowed per game -- how the NFL ranks defenses statistically overall -- at 394.0 yards allowed per game and 14th in points allowed per game (20.5). The Broncos are tied for 10th in sacks (five), tied for ninth in interceptions (two) and have not yet recovered a fumble.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesDeMarcus Ware and the Denver Broncos' defense are looking to make a bigger impact.
“I wouldn’t say we’re searching for anything," Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. “I always say there is room for improvement. We have all the players here, and we’re playing good enough to win games. But you’ve got to have those shutout games, those games you want to have on defense -- those big turnover games, interceptions, getting more pressure on the quarterback, keeping the quarterback in the pocket and not having those big games."

Against the Seahawks, it means having all of the above. It’s about keeping quarterback Russell Wilson under duress, limiting his escape routes. It’s about keeping running back Marshawn Lynch from controlling the tempo with yard after yard after contact. It’s about, for the Broncos, being far better than they were in the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The defense received most of the attention in the offseason with the signings of Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward to go with first-round pick Bradley Roby this past May. But new faces, to go with the Broncos returning from stints on injured reserve -- linebacker Von Miller, safety Rahim Moore, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and defensive end Derek Wolfe -- means the Broncos are still working to fit the pieces together.

That can be more difficult on defense, as teams rarely do in any practice what just might be the most important job on defense -- tackle at game speed. They can simulate, they can work on form and positioning, but they don’t get to see how they close the deal until the games get played. From the Seahawks' perspective, the group in front of them Sunday won't be close to the unit they faced in the Super Bowl, given at least seven projected starters on defense for the Broncos on Sunday did not play in the Super Bowl, and just two of the usual starters on defense -- defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams -- will be playing in the same spots as they did in the title game.

“We’re a real good unit," Del Rio said. “It’s early in the year. We’ve played well in spurts. We’ve played well in big moments. We’ve contributed to two wins. But we feel like there’s a lot of work yet to be done, and our guys all understand that. But we have a good group, and we’re working hard."

Said Moore: “We know what we have; we know what we can do. I’m not sure the last couple weeks we win both those games all the time in the past. We feel like we want to be on the field with the game on the line, we want that. We can play better, and we will. Every guy in here wants to show what we can do and keep getting the W's."

Broncos healthy for Super Bowl rematch

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos won’t have their leading tackler from last season on Sunday in Seattle, but linebacker Danny Trevathan continues to make progress and could return following the Week 4 bye.

 Trevathan had his most extensive work in practice since he suffered a fracture to the top of his tibia Aug. 12 in a training camp practice. Trevathan took part in Friday’s practice on a limited basis -- after taking part in some individual drills on Thursday.

“He’s made really good progress,’’ said Broncos head coach John Fox. “It was good to see him out there, he was excited to be out there. We’ll continue to work with him.’’

The Broncos believe Trevathan could be ready for a full return when the Broncos are back on the field after next week’s bye. And he could be available for the team’s Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Trevathan will travel with the team to Seattle on Saturday but is not expected to play.

Trevathan was the team’s leading tackler last season and an every-down player on defense. Though he did not take part in the Broncos' practice Wednesday -- he stretched with the team -- it was his first appearance on the field in a practice jersey since the injury.

Also Friday, kicker Brandon McManus took part in a full practice for the second consecutive day and will kick in Sunday’s game. McManus was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a groin strain. Linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) has not practiced this week and was the only player held out of the team's practice Friday because of injury.

Broncos vs. Seahawks preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
8:00
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videoRedemption or redo, what will it be?

For the first time in 17 years, the two teams who battled in the Super Bowl will play each other in the following season. The Denver Broncos, 43-8 losers to the Seattle Seahawks seven months ago, get a chance to make amends Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

A victory by the Broncos (2-0) would be a bit of redemption after the humiliating loss in Super Bowl XLVIII. A win by the Seahawks would show they're still at the top of the heap and they've regrouped after a surprising 30-21 loss last week at San Diego.

Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take a look at some of the key issues entering the Super Bowl rematch.

Blount: Jeff, the Seahawks defense had some major problems stopping the Chargers offense last weekend, which, as you know, is very similar to the schemes the Broncos use. The Seahawks had no answers for San Diego tight end Antonio Gates. Do you think the Broncos saw some things they can exploit?

Legwold: Terry, there is no explaining away a 35-point Super Bowl loss -- or at least no explaining that would satisfy the team's faithful. But there has been a nagging feeling around the team in the weeks and months since the Super Bowl blowout that if you look at the game video, the Broncos had receivers open, that they left plays out there they had made for months. So, the Broncos feel like if they execute, they can find some room to work. In looking at the Seahawks' scheme, my belief is any team has to stay patient, be content with the short and intermediate routes and wait for the chance for the big play. That's certainly easier said than done if the Seahawks get pressure up front. For the Broncos, tight end Julius Thomas has been a matchup nightmare for defenses thus far with four touchdowns in two games. The Broncos have been far more efficient out of a two tight end look early in this season, and, more importantly, more willing to use it. By the time they reached the Super Bowl, they had worked out of a three-wide receiver set on offense almost exclusively down the stretch.

Terry, staying with the Broncos offense, do you think the Seahawks look at it any differently with Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, instead of Eric Decker, Montee Ball at running back and Ryan Clady back at left tackle? Or do you think they see the same scheme with just different personnel than they faced in Super Bowl XLVIII?

Blount: I honestly don't think they see it much differently, believing it's still the same formula overall with Peyton Manning leading the way. One thing the Seahawks players and coaches say over and over again is they want to force teams to adjust to what they do, not the other way around. No matter who the Seahawks are playing, they tend to stick to what they do best on defense, which is aggressive play in the secondary, ferocious tackling and a relentless pass rush off the edge from multiple line sets. The goal is to coax the opposing offense into making mistakes and going all out to force turnovers. No matter who they play or how renowned that team's personnel, the Seahawks take the attitude of "This is what we do. Beat us if you can." The Chargers did last week. They dink-and-dunked them to death. So the Seahawks probably feel if they clean up what happened last week it should work this week since the Broncos have a similar style.

Jeff, it's only two weeks into it, but how much better can the Denver defense be this season with the addition of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward?

Legwold: Overall, the group still hasn't quite put together the full four-quarters, get-it-done effort they believe they can. The defense has made fourth-down plays in the closing minutes to preserve each of the first two wins, but it has had some issues on third down -- the Chiefs repeatedly converted in situations of third-and-8 or longer -- that need immediate attention. But those signings in free agency have already paid dividends. Ware, who was voted a team captain after his arrival in March, has 1.5 sacks, and Talib and Ware have given the Broncos more of a physical edge. But maybe more importantly, the two have allowed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to use a bigger variety of looks because of their versatility. Ward lines up all over the formation, even putting in snaps at weakside linebacker at times. The Broncos also had five defensive starters on injured reserve for the Super Bowl. The return of some of those players, such as linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Rahim Moore, will give the defense a vastly different look than what the Seahawks saw in the title game, or even in the preseason game in August.

Terry, the Seahawks had the inevitable talent drain of a Super Bowl winner after the free-agency dust settled. How effective do you think they've been to stay true to their plan and replace the players who departed?

Blount: It's still to be determined how this will turn out. Seattle lost 10 players who had 58 years of combined experience. They've been replaced, for the most part, by much younger players and, in many cases, players with a lot more talent. But it's hard to make up all that experience they lost. So far, it seems to have hurt them the most on the defensive line in losing defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. Those three players accounted for 11.5 sacks last season. The Seahawks added veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams, but his impact has been negligible so far. Rookie Cassius Marsh, who was expected to make a difference as an edge-rusher, hasn't shown much yet. Depth on the defensive line was a huge team strength last season because it kept everyone fresh late in game and into the playoffs. After two games, that same depth isn't apparent, but it's early.

The Broncos got a tiny bit of revenge in the preseason opener, when they beat the Seahawks 21-16 in Denver. But is this really the game they've been looking toward for the past seven months?

Legwold: A regular-season win would not erase a Super Bowl blowout, it just won't. Deep down, even the Broncos know that. But the item the team has carried around, what they've had to listen to, is they were "soft" or "intimidated" in the Super Bowl. The Broncos will admit to mistakes in the game, but they are tired of hearing they lost because they were too shaken to succeed. That's the part of the narrative they'd like to do something about, and if they can put together a quality effort Sunday, that would probably close the book a little for them on the whole thing, at least until the playoffs start. In the end, though, they know they can't make a Week 3 game of the new season be everything, either. There's plenty of work for them to do moving forward, win or lose Sunday, to get them back for another shot at the trophy.

Terry, in the end, an awful lot of people around the league believe if these two teams get their respective acts together and keep them together, it could be a repeat Super Bowl. From the Seahawks' perspective, how have they handled the title aftermath, and do they see what happened in San Diego as just a bad outing or something that might need a little more attention?

Blount: That's always the key question: Will all the fame and accolades change you? Richard Sherman has become a national celebrity who transcends football. Russell Wilson seems to appear on every other TV commercial here in Seattle. Sherman, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett all received big-money deals in the offseason. But through the offseason, organized team activities and training camp, I didn't see the slightest indication this team had become complacent. If anything, it seemed more driven to prove it could return to the Super Bowl and win it again, breaking the trend of teams not getting it done the following season. However, they fell off the horse a little last week. It wasn't that they lost, but how they reacted to the loss. They said and did some things that were uncharacteristic, but they were clearly stunned about getting beat. How they react to it this week will say a lot about where they're headed.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In the written record that is the play-by-play from Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s listed simply as; “P.Manning pass short middle to D. Thomas to DEN 40 for 2 yards (K. Chancellor)."

But for many, including Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker Bobby Wagner, Chancellor’s hit on Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas just over five minutes into the title game set the tone for what was to come. Wagner went as far, in an offseason TV appearance, to say the Broncos wide receivers were intimidated after the hit.

[+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas and Kam Chancellor
AP Photo/Bill KostrounDenver receiver Demaryius Thomas took a hard hit from Seattle's Kam Chancellor early in Super Bowl XLVIII.
At the time, Wagner said: “That first hit [Chancellor] came across the middle and smacked him … they were very timid."

With the rematch of the Broncos 43-8 loss in the title game set for Sunday in Seattle, Thomas offered some thoughts all these months later. Asked if the hit had the impact on him, as well as the other Broncos, that many have said it did, Thomas said:

“Nah, it’s just a hit. You play football, you’re gonna get hit. It didn’t bother me; I got up and kept playing."

Asked if it was the game’s turning point, Thomas added:

“I think about it, and now that the game is over, I laugh about getting hit. It doesn’t bother me. They came out that day and played better football than us and all I can say is give them their props and try to come back Sunday and try to do better."

Thomas suffered a shoulder injury on the play and, after a trip to the sideline, returned to finish with 13 receptions for 118 yards and the Broncos' only touchdown on a day that was largely a struggle for the Broncos' offense. In general, Thomas, who has had back-to-back 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown seasons to go with two Pro Bowl trips, had high praise for the Seahawks secondary. He called cornerback Richard Sherman “one of the best … I think he’s one of the smarter guys in the game."

And on the Seahawks safeties, Thomas said “Kam Chancellor, big hitter, Earl [Thomas] is all over the field, very good at what they do"

On the Seahawks defense, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase put Seattle’s group among some fast company.

“You’re talking about three teams in the history of football – the ’85 Bears, the 2000 Ravens and these guys, that’s where these guys rank in defensive football," Gase said following Thursday's practice. “These guys are one of the best teams to ever play and they are trying to show it again this year."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As they approach a Super Bowl rematch in Seattle that isn’t really a second chance at a Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos find themselves trying to find the right balance between past and present.

Between remembering the sting and embarrassment of a 35-point loss on the league’s biggest stage, and simply moving on to try to create another opportunity to make it right.

“Yeah, you don’t forget what happened and also, you set the standard by playing against the Super Bowl (winners)," said Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. “They’ve earned the right to talk how they talk and we’ll just speak with our pads and show up on Sunday. Obviously we still have a bad taste in our mouths from the Super Bowl, but it’s a new season and we want to get back to that point and obviously win it. But playing against the team that won the Super Bowl and actually having a chance at a rematch really will show how far we came as a team and if we improved or not."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Ben Liebenberg"I think naturally you're motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year," Peyton Manning said. "But being motivated, or being mad doesn't mean anything if you don't go out there and execute and do your job."
Sunday will be the Broncos’ first regular-season trip to Seattle, a former division foe from 1978-2001. Everybody knows the numbers: The Seahawks have gone 18-1 in their last 19 regular-season home games and the last time these two teams met in a game that counted, the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII by 35 points.

And in the social media world, a team that loses the Super Bowl by 35 points somehow doesn’t finish second. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said “people don’t see you as a team that was a runner-up because of what happened."

The Broncos have lived with being called soft, intimidated and unable to play to the moment in the title game. That’s all fodder to wind a team up.

Asked if he had ever been more excited to play in a regular-season game, Knighton said; “No. No I haven’t been this excited … Saturday, when we get on that plane, a lot of guys’ adrenaline will start boosting. It’ll be a hostile environment and that’s just the way we like it -- with our back against the walls."

But it’s also, for both the Broncos Seahawks, Week 3 of a season with plenty of miles to go before another shot at the postseason. In that vein Broncos head coach John Fox has tried to emphasize, at least publicly, Sunday’s game is indeed the kind of stage any Super Bowl hopeful would want to be on, but not the end-all, be-all of the new season.

Quarterback Peyton Manning even took a far simpler approach.

“Yeah, I think naturally you’re motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year,’’ Manning said. “But being motivated, or being mad doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go out there and execute and do your job … so I still think you have to try to simplify it in some ways and try to find a way to protect the ball, score some touchdowns in the red zone and stay out of a lot of third-and-longs. I think if you don’t do those things, it’s tough to be a good football team."

So, whatever errors the Broncos made this past February, the opportunity that was lost, it's all a part of history’s stew. Almost half of the players currently on the Broncos' roster weren't with the team in MetLife Stadium, and the team will likely start at least seven players on defense Sunday who didn’t even play in the Super Bowl, so how it all turns out this time around will depend on how the current Broncos seize the day.

“I think we’ve got to caution ourselves from trying to make this a revenge for the Super Bowl game,’’ said tight end Julius Thomas. “This is the 2014 season, but we’re still playing a very tough opponent -- probably what a lot of people consider one of the better teams in this league. When you’re going up against a playoff team three weeks in a row, you’ve got to keep on making a statement to everybody else in the league about what type of team we’re going to be this year."

“You’ve got to stay in your (playbook) and just work on your fundamentals and get better each week and watch your opponent as much as possible without getting riled up and feeding into all the talk -- you know, the bulletin board stuff, all the quotes they got,’’ Knighton said. “But we just keep it simple."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The San Diego Chargers used a former college basketball player turned tight end, Antonio Gates, to score three touchdowns on the Seattle Seahawks defense this past weekend.

So, as the Denver Broncos prepare for the Super Bowl rematch Sunday in Seattle, perhaps it would stand to reason their former college basketball player turned tight end -- Julius Thomas, who is tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions with four -- should be a big part of the plan.

[+] EnlargeJulius Thomas
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesBroncos tight end Julius Thomas leads the league in touchdown receptions with four.
"You can't really look at the game like that," Thomas said following Wednesday's practice. "Just because Gates had three touchdowns [Sunday] doesn't mean that I'm going to be able to go out there and have three touchdowns."

But it is something to consider as the Broncos work to try to make Sunday's visit to Seattle a little better than their last game that counted against the Seahawks -- the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Is Denver taking anything from how the Chargers, who happen to be coached by Mike McCoy, a former Broncos offensive coordinator, attacked the Seahawks defense in San Diego's 30-21 victory in Qualcomm Stadium? If they are, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is taking a loose-lips-sink-game plans approach.

"I can't really speak to the San Diego game plan, the Green Bay game plan [in Week 1 against the Seahawks], and I can't speak to our game plan," Manning said.

But beyond Gates' seven-catch day to go with 96 yards and three touchdowns, the Chargers did do some things on offense worth noting.

First, they played with patience and efficiency. Gates' 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was San Diego's longest pass play of the game. No other receiver had a reception of more than 16 yards in the game against the Seahawks' zone looks.

The Chargers worked short and intermediate routes with Gates' seven catches to go with nine receptions combined for the Chargers running backs. The Chargers also held on to the ball and did not have a turnover.

They had two field-goal drives go for 10 and 14 plays, respectively, in the first half. And, two of their three touchdown drives went for 75 and 80 yards.

What that means for Thomas and the Broncos remains to be seen. In the first two weeks of the season, Thomas has been the matchup that has created the biggest problem for opposing defenses.

Some of that is Thomas' continued growth as a player, as well as the Broncos' desire to be a little more physical. But it also was likely because of Wes Welker's suspension for a violation of the league's drug policy and the fact rookie receiver Cody Latimer, a physical, athletic player the Broncos continue to rave about in practice, is not quite ready to work in the audible-heavy offense.

So the Broncos, who were primarily a three-wide receiver offense last season on the way to a record 606 points, have played far more out of a two-tight end set this season. In Sunday's win over the Chiefs, they were in that look for all but one snap -- usually with Thomas paired with Jacob Tamme, who often plays like a bigger slot receiver.

"There may be some things that we saw on tape that we may try to do with me, but ultimately you've got to go out there and play your own game,” Thomas said. "The Chargers were able to go out there and have some success last week, and we're going to find our own success. If that's with me being able to have a good game then I have no problem with that. But whatever it takes for us to get the W.”

With Welker being reinstated Wednesday, how the Broncos proceed is still a question they won't reveal the answer to until Sunday's game. Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he knows facing Gates and Thomas in back-to-back weeks is a challenge.

"We've got some great power forwards that are playing tight end and can do everything," Carroll said. "Tony Gonzalez was a tremendous mold for that … We saw a great one last weekend that gave us all kinds of problems, just like [the Broncos] have so we know it can be a big factor particularly when they're hooked up and have great chemistry with the quarterback."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Before Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker was suspended earlier this month, most of the discussion surrounding the 11th-year veteran was about his health.

About the fact that, after a concussion in the Broncos’ Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, Welker had suffered three concussions in a 10-month span. Welker has returned to the Broncos after being reinstated in the wake of the NFL and NFL Players Association finishing negotiations on a new drug policy that has been enacted immediately.

Welker
Welker took part in the Broncos’ practice Wednesday, his first on-field work since limited participation on Labor Day. Welker said Wednesday he had been cleared medically “about a week or so ago."

He was asked following practice if he understood why people were concerned about his well-being and why some have questioned publicly whether he should return to the field.

“I appreciate their concern, I do," Welker said. “But at the same time, I feel great. I feel sharp and ready to go."

Welker was held out of the final three games of the regular season in 2013 after he suffered a concussion in a Nov. 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and another in a Dec. 8 game against the Tennessee Titans.

He returned to play in all three of the Broncos' postseason games, including Super Bowl XLVIII. Wednesday marked the first time -- the Broncos had a fully padded practice -- Welker had been a full participant in practice since the days before the Aug. 23 concussion.

After Welker’s suspension was announced, Broncos head coach John Fox said the time away, from a health perspective, might be a “blessing in disguise" for Welker.

“Maybe a little bit, you always hate to miss any time at all," Welker said. “But especially with head injuries and different things like that, every week and every day is a good thing for it. Not the way I wanted it to happen, but it is what it is."

Under the guidelines of the league’s concussion protocol to return to play, Welker had to be cleared by an independent physician, designated by both the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Danny Trevathan moving toward return

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- His return to the practice field was overshadowed plenty by wide receiver Wes Welker’s presence in practice as well, but linebacker Danny Trevathan’s ability to do at least some work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches was good news for the Broncos and an indication that one of the team's most productive players is closing in on a return.

Trevathan, who was the team’s leading tackler last season and an every-down player in Jack Del Rio’s scheme, suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia on Aug. 12. Though he did not take part in the Broncos' practice Wednesday -- he stretched with the team -- Trevathan’s work was his first appearance on the field in a practice jersey since the injury.

Trevathan said last week, "I’m getting there, I’ll be ready to get back in there soon."

Trevathan is five weeks out from the injury. The Broncos have been optimistic throughout Trevathan’s recovery that he would need six to eight weeks before a return to the lineup.

The Broncos face Seattle this weekend, but then have a Week 4 bye, so Trevathan, if he continues at his current pace, may be available for the Broncos’ Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Broncos will likely practice at least twice during their bye week.

Linebacker Von Miller, who left the Broncos' win over the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday with a groin injury, practiced Wednesday.

Linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) and defensive tackle Marvin Austin (excused) did not practice. Austin’s father, Marvin Sr., was involved in an automobile accident Sunday.
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Perhaps it took a little longer than the Denver Broncos had hoped, but the team is poised to get wide receiver Wes Welker back on the roster this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Tuesday that the NFL had begun to inform players who would be reinstated once representatives of the NFL and NFL Players Association had signed a term sheet on the new drug policy.

[+] EnlargeWelker
AP Photo/Jack DempseyThe Broncos could have Wes Welker back from his league suspension as early as Wednesday.
The Broncos have kept a roster spot open for Welker for over a week. The team, with the negotiations on a new drug policy seemingly nearing a conclusion, cut wide receiver Nathan Palmer on Sept. 9 and remained at 52 players since.

Welker, who suffered a concussion in the Broncos’ Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, has been cleared medically, so he would take part in practice as soon as he is formally moved from reserve/suspended to the active roster.

Following Broncos practice last Friday, coach John Fox said the team was ready to welcome Welker back whenever an agreement was in place. But earlier this week, Fox wasn't prepared to publicly say when he thought that would be.

"I know we get Wes back for sure after four games," Fox said Monday. "Anything other than that, that’s somebody else’s decisions.”

Welker was originally suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and already has served the first two games of the suspension, missing the Broncos’ wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. However, Broncos officials and players have believed that a new policy would change the criteria of Welker's suspension and allow for the reinstatement of Welker and several others players around the league.

Welker had been limited in practice at the time of his league-mandated punishment because of the concussion he suffered against the Texans. The concussion was Welker's third in a 10-month span.

Welker has taken part in just one practice -- he was limited in the team’s Labor Day workout -- since the injury.

Welker's chance at reinstatement came because, under the new policy, Welker's positive test for amphetamines would now fall under the league's policy for substance abuse because it occurred during the offseason. Under the guidelines of the substance abuse policy, a player enters the treatment program with the first positive test, a program that includes meeting with counselors. The player is also subject to increased testing each month.

It takes multiple positive tests under the substance abuse policy before the suspension phase is reached. Welker's positive test had fallen under the PED policy, which put players into the suspension phase with the first positive test.

Under his original suspension, Welker would not have been eligible to return to the team until Monday, Oct. 6, and then would have played for the first time in the Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.

In Welker's absence, the Broncos have run far more plays out of a two-tight end set than they did down the stretch last season or in the playoffs. Of quarterback Peyton Manning's league-leading six touchdown passes, five have gone to tight ends: four to Julius Thomas and one to Jacob Tamme.

Denver Broncos rewind: Offense

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
4:55
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- They’re fourth in the league in scoring, tied for sixth in yards per play and the Denver Broncos are 2-0.

Yet the feeling around the team, and certainly among the team's faithful, is they’ve left some points on the table and the second-half lull in each of the first two games will need some attention.

After a long look at the video, here are some thoughts on the team’s offense:
  • Welker
    With wide receiver Wes Welker's time in suspension limbo expected to end this week -- he would join the Broncos roster as soon as the league’s new drug policy is formally agreed to by both the NFL and NFLPA -- it will be intriguing to watch if the offense drifts away from what it’s done well in the early going. Five of Peyton Manning's six touchdown passes have gone to the team’s tight ends so far -- four to Julius Thomas and one to Jacob Tamme. And four of those scoring plays have come in the two-tight-end set with Welker out of the lineup. The Broncos have also spent far more time in the two-tight-end set, including all but one snap this past Sunday. And they are consistently creating matchup problems with it all over the field. If Welker isn’t ready for full duty -- he’s only practiced once, on a limited basis, since Aug. 23 -- or the Broncos want to limit his snaps since he has had three concussions in 10 months, it’s clear they have a viable option that’s more than a change of pace. Last season they used a variety of offensive sets early, but down the stretch they were almost exclusively in three wide.
  • The Broncos went into the offseason to try and squeeze more out of the team’s running game without losing their throw-first edge. And the Broncos have flashed some potential -- like Montee Ball's 23-yard run on a third-and-24 in the third quarter Sunday -- but they have spent almost 90 snaps in the first two games in a two-tight-end formation and have more runs by running backs or wide receivers for no gain or negative yardage than they did in last season's first two games, when they played out out of largely three-wide-receiver sets. They’re leaving gaps on the interior, both in the zone run game and when they pull one of the interior linemen to cross the formation. But overall they’ve had nine carries already for no gain or negative yardage (other than kneel-downs), and seven of those have come on first down. No surprise the Chiefs were involved in that already, though; last season the Chiefs stopped Broncos ball carriers for 15 runs of no gain or negative yards, with 11 of those in the Broncos’ Dec. 12 win. But add in the fact the Broncos have had seven additional carries for 1 yard each, and 34.8 percent of the rushing attempts the Broncos have had from plays other than Manning kneel-downs have gone for 1 or fewer yards.
  • Can’t say Ball isn’t willing to stick his nose into the action in pass protection. Tamba Hali did have the Chiefs’ only sack Sunday, and he did overpower Ball to get it. But Ball threw himself at the much bigger outside linebacker for what was perhaps the biggest collision in the game.
  • Many years ago Ron Erhardt, a longtime NFL assistant to go with a brief stint as Patriots head coach, said “throw to score, run to win." That was long before receivers were set free down the field by the rules makers and quarterbacks were more accurate overall than they’ve ever been. But the Broncos are living the throw-to-score mantra. They have touchdown passes of 3, 5, 4 and 4 yards already this season.
  • Of the Broncos pass catchers, Emmanuel Sanders played 48 of the team’s 49 snaps Sunday, while Julius Thomas played 46 and Demaryius Thomas 45. Tamme, who was in the formation for all three Broncos touchdowns, finished with 37 snaps.

The Film Don't Lie: Broncos

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the Denver Broncos must fix:

In these pass-happy times when third-and-short is still a time for a quarterback to be in the shotgun with three wide receivers in the formation, a defense has to find a way to survive in its nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six) packages, even if an offense decides to run the ball.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs made it clear -- and the Seattle Seahawks' coaches are just as certain to take notice this week as they prepare for the Broncos -- they believed the Broncos would have trouble defending the run out of the nickel. On seven of the first nine snaps the Broncos were in the nickel, the Chiefs ran the ball.

The results: a 25-yard run by Knile Davis and a 2-yard touchdown run by Davis in a second-and-goal situation. In addition, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith rushed for 25 yards on a designed pass play when he took advantage of an easy escape from the pocket.

In the imitation-is-inevitable department, the Broncos are going to have to show they can defend the run when they go smaller on defense, especially with teams like the Seahawks, Jets, 49ers and Chargers on the docket over the next five weeks.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When some of the NFL’s officials rolled through the Denver Broncos complex during training camp to enlighten the team’s coaches and players on the rules changes for the season as well as the "points of emphasis," the Broncos saw one of their own on the training video shown to every team in the league.

In the portion of the video that discussed centers moving their heads or their hands too much before the snap in an effort to get defensive players to jump offside, it was the Broncos’ Manny Ramirez who was used as the example of what not to do.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox
AP Photo/Jack DempseyJohn Fox saw his defense commit five offside penalties on Sunday, matching its total for 2013.
And after five offside penalties on Broncos defensive players Sunday, head coach John Fox believes not everybody got the memo, citing some “abrupt’’ movements from Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson.

Asked Monday for the root of four different defensive players being flagged for five offside penalties in Sunday’s 24-17 Broncos win, Fox said:

"They might have been a little abrupt. [That’s] something we’re, of course, going to turn in. I can’t speak about it, but we’ll turn it in."

One of those penalties, from defensive end Quanterus Smith late in the fourth quarter, negated an interception return for a touchdown by Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Fox also didn’t let his own players off the hook, either, as defensive end DeMarcus Ware was flagged twice to go with one penalty each for Smith, Von Miller and Terrance Knighton.

Because of crowd noise at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Chiefs used a silent count for much of the game -- "There was no cadence," Fox said.

"After maybe one or two, think we probably should have adjusted a little better," Fox said. "[But] the squatting and turning of the head fairly abruptly, you know, was something that we’ll make sure the league knows about."

Asked about the team viewing the training video this summer, Fox added: "Yeah, something we made people aware of. It didn’t work out so good."

"They had a really good snap count," Ware said. "There’s no excuse, it’s watching the ball. But when you have a lot of movement before the snap of the ball, you get a little antsy."

Last season the Broncos' defense was flagged for five offside penalties all year.

Before the season, officials were told to flag centers under the guidelines that "prior to the snap, any quick, or abrupt movement by any offensive players, or several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of a play, is a foul."

The league's directive also said among the things to be penalized was to be "a center abruptly lifting or dropping his head not immediately followed by the snap."

In the league’s training video it was Ramirez who was shown quickly dropping his head without snapping the ball.

The NFL made it a point of emphasis given there were 33 neutral zone infractions by defenders flagged in 2005. Last season there were 132. Last year Broncos opponents were flagged seven times for neutral zone infractions and three for being offside.
DENVER -- Two halves don’t add up to the whole story right now for the Denver Broncos. At least not the story their offense wants to tell.

In two games, both wins, the Broncos' high-powered offense has had the ball for nine possessions in the first halves of their two games combined, excluding one kneel-down play for quarterback Peyton Manning to close out the opening half against the Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Jack DempseyPeyton Manning and the Broncos are 2-0 despite their second-half woes on offense.
On those nine possessions the Broncos have scored six touchdowns, a field goal and had two punts. The Broncos also have scored on their opening drive in each game.

"It feels good to go down and score on the opening drive," Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "It gives everyone confidence that we can seriously do it over and over and over again."

But in back-to-back games the Broncos have left the offensive mojo in the locker room. In eight second-half possessions that haven’t included Manning taking a knee to end both games, the Broncos have scored just one touchdown and one field goal to go with six punts with offensive coordinator Adam Gase working out of the same playbook.

Broncos head coach John Fox, sitting at 2-0 after Sunday's 24-17 win over Kansas City, bristled at least some following the game with questions about discipline and offensive flow.

"We’re not going to beat everybody 58-to-nothing," Fox said.

For his part, Manning took a bit of a big-picture look following Sunday’s win.

"We’re playing a lot of good football teams," Manning said. "We played two really good teams, two playoff teams off the bat. Feel fortunate to win those games; have another tough game next week as well. So it’s still kind of the goals that you set on the offensive philosophies that you have, if you can achieve those goals those usually can lead to positive results. So we’re hitting some of those goals and some things we can do a little better job of."

Yes, Manning did finish his day with the NFL lead in touchdown passes, with six in two games. He has been particularly willing to find the best matchup in the scoring zone with four of those scoring passes having gone to tight ends Julius Thomas (three) and Jacob Tamme (one).

But the second-half numbers are troubling given the Broncos have been forced to hang on in each game, having to make a fourth-down play on defense in the game’s closing moments to preserve the win in each of the first two weeks.

Against the Colts, the Broncos didn’t make the most of their chances -- three three-and-outs in the second half -- while the Broncos simply didn’t get many chances against the Chiefs.

"If the other team has it, we can’t score," running back Montee Ball said.

The Broncos had just two possessions, other than Manning’s kneel down to end the game, in the second half against Kansas City. They turned one into a field goal, but were penalized for almost as many yards (17) as they netted on the drive (27).

The Chiefs opened up the first 10 minutes of the third quarter with a 19-play drive (23 plays with penalties included). They did not score after all that work when Cairo Santos missed a 37-yard field goal, but they got the next best thing by keeping Manning & Co. on the sideline for most of the third quarter.

"That’s ball-possession defense, all 10 minutes with no points," Fox said with tongue in cheek. "In all seriousness, that team struggled last week on third down. I’d say it’s fair to say, like any very competitive people, they worked very hard at it. Hat's off to them."

But the Broncos exited their 2-0 start knowing the team next on the docket is the one that derailed their offense in the Super Bowl just over seven months ago -- the Seattle Seahawks -- and that status quo won't be enough.

"We’ve got some work to do," Ball said. "We’re getting better every week. … It’s part of the game. The tide is going to turn, momentum is going to swing. Once we get momentum, we want to keep the momentum."

Third-down dilemma nearly dooms Denver

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:40
PM ET
DENVER -- On fourth down, the Denver Broncos are game-savers; they suit up, slap on a cape and do some super-hero stuff.

In both games this season, the Broncos’ defense has made a play on fourth down as the clock wound down to stop a rally and preserve a seven-point win. As they did in the season-opener against the Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos did it again Sunday to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-17, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyAlex Smith's ability to convert in key situations had Denver defenders frustrated after Sunday's game.
But it wasn’t without plenty of worry lines all around. Because on third down? It was third-and-brutal.

"Converting on third down, getting off [the field] on third down is something the defense is always about," Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. "If you can get off [the field] on third down, then it’s a great defense. [Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith] strings some of the plays out, they were able to make some big plays on us in key situations."

"We all get paid to come in here and do our job," Broncos linebacker Nate Irving said. "We don’t have any excuses, we know we can’t do that and be the kind of defense we want to be. We’ll look at it all. Like I say, we’ll look at it and see where we messed up."

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has consistently started most any conversation about what needs to be done each week with two items. He will say the defense needs to "leverage and tackle," and he will routinely add the importance of getting off the field on third down "to give the ball back to our offense as many times as possible."

If you take away quarterback Peyton Manning taking a knee to end the game, the Broncos' high-powered offense had just two possessions in the second half Sunday. Two.

In all, the Chiefs converted 11-of-16 third downs and converted all types along the way. Some short, some intermediate, some long and some in the no-offense-should-ever-convert-those range.

During the Chiefs’ marathon 19-play (23 plays when penalties are included), 10-minute drive to open the second half, Kansas City converted five third-down situations. The Broncos escaped without surrendering any points -- Kansas City kicker Cairo Santos missed a 37-yard field goal attempt -- but those five were an alarming third-and-18, a third-and-11, a third-and-13, a third-and-3 and a third-and-8.

The Chiefs made three of those on completions from Smith for 20, 14 and 5 yards. But the Broncos put a little more self-inflicted woe on the pile with flags for roughing the passer on Malik Jackson to go with an illegal contact penalty on Chris Harris Jr.

The Broncos also, on a third-and-9 situation in the game’s closing minutes, had an Aqib Talib interception return for a touchdown that would have closed things out negated by an offside penalty on defensive end Quanterus Smith.

"We know," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "We know, every guy in here knows we have to do a better job of getting off the field. We’re 2-0, we made some plays to get the W's, but we know what we’re going to look on film."

They better. Because while 2-0 always feels pretty good, the Broncos know the Seattle Seahawks await them next Sunday.

Or as Harris put it before he strolled out of the Broncos' locker room: "If guys go out and celebrate and act extra hyped off winning this game … then their mindset is not in the right place."

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