AFC West: Correll Buckhalter

Evening AFC West notes

July, 25, 2011
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The Chiefs’ employees will get a nice raise after taking a pay cut during the lockout. Kudos to Kansas City's ownership for that gesture.
  • Add former Baltimore defensive tackle Kelly Gregg to the names of players Kansas City could look at. Gregg is being cut by the Ravens.
  • The Oakland Tribune wonders if the Raiders could sign former Baltimore tight end Todd Heap if Zach Miller leaves as a free agent. Heap is being cut. Heap is still solid. At this point, though, Heap is no Miller. Both Oakland head coach Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders have coached Heap in Baltimore.
UPDATE: FOX 31 in Denver is reporting that Denver will release running back Correll Buckhalter after two years with the club. The report indicates he could come back at a reduced price. This has been expected. Denver is looking for an upgrade at the position.

AFC West Week 4 decisive moment

October, 5, 2010
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

It was a true team effort.

The Denver Broncos were minutes away from dropping to 1-3 despite staying close in every game they’ve played. They needed help from the defense, offense and special teams. They got it.

Trailing 20-16 with less than three minutes to go, the Denver defense forced Tennessee to punt from deep in its own territory.

Then, it was the offense’s turn. It got the ball at the Titans’ 49 with 2:42 to go, needing a touchdown in a hostile environment. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton, who has had a great season and who threw for 341 yards against the Titans, made some plays and then went for it all.

On the first play after the two-minute warning, on second down and 25 from the 50, Orton tried to hit receiver Jabar Gaffney at the goal line. However, Tennessee defensive back Chris Hope was all over Gaffney and was called for pass interference, giving Denver first and goal at the Titans’ 1.

After a five-yard Denver penalty and an incomplete pass, Orton hit running back Correll Buckhalter on a six-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 23-20 lead with 1:33 remaining. It was a perfect strike.

Denver then put the game on ice with a short field after recovering a muffed kick, getting a 26-20 win and evening its record at 2-2. Denver made plays in all three phases in the final three minutes to win a crucial road test. Game balls all around.
If the Denver Broncos are going to break through on the ground this week in Tennessee, they will have to do it without starting running back Knowshon Moreno.

Moreno’s disastrous early season is continuing. He will miss his second straight game because of a hamstring injury he suffered during practice last week. Moreno, the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2009, missed all of August with a hamstring injury.

Denver, which has been ravaged by injury at running back this year, will continue to go with Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney in Moreno’s absence. Neither of those players could get the Denver running game going last week, and they were particularly poor in the red zone.

Denver is 30th in the NFL on the ground, averaging 67 rushing yards a game. Denver is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, which is a league low. Denver is ranked No. 1 in passing in the NFL. Yet, a lack of balance and inefficiency in the red zone have been a big reason why the Broncs are 1-2.

The injury continues a frustrating second season for Moreno. The Broncos expected big things from him this season after an uneven rookie season in which Moreno tailed off terribly in the final month. He had just 173 of his 947 yards in the final four games of last season, all defeats. Moreno has 111 yards on 39 carries in two games this season.

Denver no longer a rushing power

September, 29, 2010
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During the 14-year Mike Shanahan era in Denver, the Broncos' running game was the gold standard in the NFL.

Year after year, no matter who was the lead tailback, Denver was near the top of the NFL in rushing. Running always set up the pass in Denver. That has changed. Three games into the second season of the Josh McDaniels era, the once-vaunted Denver running game is a memory.

Denver averages 2.5 yards per rush attempt, the lowest per-carry average in the league. Denver’s run offense is ranked 30th, averaging just 67 yards a game. Denver’s passing offense is ranked No. 1. A big reason why Denver is 1-2 is because of the lack of balance on offense. McDaniels used Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme last season, but he moved to a more power-blocking scheme this season.

However, Denver has dealt with major injury issues at running back and on the offensive line since the beginning of camp. Starting tailback Knowshon Moreno missed last week’s loss at the Colts with a hamstring injury he suffered at practice last week. Moreno, the No. 12 overall pick in 2009, missed all of August with a hamstring injury. He did not practice Wednesday in Denver. It’s unclear if he will be ready to play at Tennessee on Sunday.

If Moreno can’t play, Correll Buckhalter and newly acquired Laurence Maroney will play against the Titans. Neither player could do much, especially in the red zone, against the Colts.

McDaniels told reporters in Denver on Wednesday that there are no quick fixes to improve a running attack.

“All we can do is work to try and improve it and try to get our players to work together as many times as we can,” McDaniels said. “We have had a lot of people move in and out of those spots -- whether it be upfront (or) in the backfield. I think continuity is something that we are always going to try and strive for, but I don’t want a short-term fix. I think, as you go through the season, you try to build so that you are playing your best football towards the end. Certainly, we have room to improve not only in the running game but in a lot of areas. I think we are focused on just going out there and working hard and trying to fix what we can fix.”

Until that happens, Denver can long longer be known as a premier running team.

Moving on: Denver Broncos

September, 20, 2010
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Here are some areas Denver needs to focus on after a 31-14 victory over Seattle:

Recap: The Broncos looked very solid while earning their first win of the season. Denver was efficient in passing and made timely plays on defense.

Biggest area to fix: running game. Second-year running back Knowshon Moreno had 51 carries on 24 carries. Denver totaled just 65 yards on the ground. Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, who had 19 yards on 11 carries, are still trying to shake the rust off training camp injuries and the Denver offensive line is a work in progress. But something has to be done. If not, the Denver passing game will be become vulnerable because of a lack of an effective run.

Biggest area to build on: passing offense. Kyle Orton is playing at a high level. He threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns without throwing any interceptions. Orton can no longer be looked at as a simple game manager. He is a plus-player who is a difference maker for Denver.

What to watch for: Denver has to spend this week figuring out Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. He has long been a Bronco killer. Denver’s pass defense bounced back from giving up three passing touchdowns in Week 1 at Jacksonville with a strong game against the Seahawks. Denver had two red-zone interceptions against Seattle. It will have to find a way to duplicate the results against Manning.

Breaking down Laurence Maroney trade

September, 14, 2010
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Denver will get Maroney and the Patriots’ sixth-round pick in 2011, while New England will get Denver’s fourth-round pick in 2011.

I just caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to discuss Denver’s acquisition of running back Laurence Maroney from New England.

Maroney reunites with former New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is the head coach in Denver. Maroney joins a running back crew that includes Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.

Williamson discussed the move and how it could affect Denver: “I can’t say I think it’s a bad trade. I don’t think Moreno can be trusted to stay healthy and Buckhalter is just a guy. So, Maroney can help and this deal makes sense. Clearly, McDaniels knows him and sees something in him. Still, I don’t see the guy who was a first-round pick in 2006. I think he may be on the decline some. But he has some physical burst. All three could be used in a rotation. This doesn’t make Denver a great team, but it doesn’t hurt them, either. It’s not a bad trade.”
Laurence Maroney is a Denver Bronco.

Maroney

Maroney


It’s a move four years in the making.

In the 2006 draft, Denver coach Mike Shanahan said he nearly drafted Maroney out of Minnesota, but the Broncos pulled off a trade and drafted quarterback Jay Cutler. Shanahan thought Maroney was a perfect fit for Denver’s zone blocking, downhill running style.

Maroney clearly fits new Denver coach Josh McDaniels’ style. McDaniels was Maroney’s offensive coordinator in New England prior to coming to Denver last year. When it was rumored this summer that Maroney would be put on the trade market, Denver was a logical potential destination because of his history with McDaniels and Denver’s issues at the position.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Maroney was traded for Denver's fourth-round pick in 2011. Denver also gets New England's 2011 sixth-round pick, according to Schefter.

Maroney fell out of favor in New England this season. He missed the Patriots’ season opener with a thigh injury.

The Broncos have been plagued by injuries since the beginning of training camp. Last weekend, Knowshon Moreno, in his first action since being hurt in the first day of training camp, had 60 yards rushing. His backup, Correll Buckhalter, had 15 yards.

Expect Maroney to be used in short-yardage situations. Maroney is 5-11, 220 pounds. He had 757 yards rushing and nine rushing touchdowns last season. His best NFL season came in 2007 when he had 835 yards rushing. Maroney is not a special player, but he will improve Denver’s backfield.

UPDATE: Schefter reports Denver will get Maroney and the Patriots’ sixth-round pick in 2011, while New England will get Denver’s fourth-round pick in 2011.
The Denver Broncos’ journey to find help for an injury-riddled running back crew has led to a player who is trying to fight his way back from an injury himself.

The Broncos reportedly claimed running back Andre Brown of waivers from the New York Giants on Sunday. That Denver claimed a running back is not a surprise at all. Denver has been depleted by injury at the position.

Brown will vie to be a contributor behind starter Knowshon Moreno and top backup Correll Bcukhalter. Both Moreno and Buckhalter were hurt for much of the past month. It is not clear if Moreno will be at full strength on opening day next Sunday in Jacksonville. He suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of training camp and returned to practice last week.

Brown had a strong preseason for the Giants after missing his rookie season with an Achilles injury. He was a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State last year. Many around the league were surprised he was cut by the Giants. Now, Brown has a chance to give the battered Broncos a boost.

Denver loses another player

September, 3, 2010
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The Broncos’ injury woes are continuing.

White
White
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that backup running back LenDale White tore his Achilles Thursday night in the preseason finale at Minnesota. White was going to play a key backup role and be a short-yardage back in Denver. He was slated to serve a four-game suspension by the NFL to start the season.

White was signed because of injuries in the backfield earlier in camp.

Denver starting tailback Knowshon Moreno just returned to practice after hurting his hamstring on the first day of camp. The team hopes he is ready to carry a big load on opening day, Sept. 12 against Jacksonville. Top backup Correll Buckhalter was out for much of the preseason with a back injury. He played against the Vikings.

Denver will surely look for a tailback in the next few days. Denver needs a big back with experience to provide depth for its fragile running back crew. One possibility could be Derrick Ward, who was cut by Tampa Bay this week.

Could Oakland cut John Henderson?

September, 2, 2010
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Longtime Oakland Raiders’ beat writer Steve Corkran breaks down Oakland’s roster and how it might shake out Saturday when the 53-man roster must be made. Here’s one aspect of the breakdown that stood out: Corkran says defensive tackle John Henderson is on the bubble to make the roster.

Very interesting.

Perhaps Henderson has not looked very good in camp, but he wasn’t signed to look good in camp. He was signed to plug the middle against the run for 20-25 plays a game. However, maybe Oakland’s coaching staff thinks Henderson doesn’t have much left in the tank. That was the verdict by many teams. Henderson didn’t visit any teams between being cut by Jacksonville and signed by Oakland. If Henderson is cut, it means Oakland is happy with the several young players on the line, including second-year player Desmond Bryant.

Denver tackle Ryan Harris says the Vikings will see a “full dose” of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow on Thursday night. If all goes well for Tebow, he should be the Broncos’ No. 2 quarterback any day now.

Here is report that suggests the Chargers should trade holdout receiver Vincent Jackson to Minnesota for a third-round pick. I don’t see that happening. If Jackson sits and eventually leaves San Diego as a free-agent, the Chargers will likely get a third-round pick in 2012 as a compensatory pick. I don’t see A.J. Smith giving in so easily.

Here’s some love for Denver running back Correll Buckhalter. I buy in. Every time I saw that guy play last season, he was ripping off eight-nine yard runs. The key for Buckhalter is to stay healthy.

Many people think San Diego running back Ryan Mathews is going to win the offensive rookie of the year award.
The Denver Broncos' running back crew is as healthy as it has been all training camp, but it is still not in a perfect situation.

Denver has to be pleased that starter Knowshon Moreno is on the mend. Moreno practiced for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on the first full day of training camp about 30 days ago. Moreno said he is about 80 percent healthy. With the season opener at Jacksonville 12 days away, Moreno could be close to being at full strength.

The issue is Moreno may be a bit rusty when the team faces the Jaguars. I’m sure he won’t be overworked in the meantime to protect his injury. So it may be asking a lot of him to carry a huge load in the opener.

Denver’s No. 2 and No. 3 backs, Correll Buckhalter and LenDale White (who will serve a four-game suspension to start the season) are also getting back to health. I would not be surprised at all if the Broncos, who cut Justin Fargas on Monday, look for a veteran running back to help with depth.

That search could begin with Derrick Ward, who was just cut by Tampa Bay. The Broncos studied Ward during free agency last year, so it could be a fit.

Meanwhile, Denver coach Josh McDaniels made a surprising call that the starters will play some Thursday at Minnesota. Usually, starters wear baseball caps on the sideline in the preseason finale.

McDaniels told reporters that neither Tim Tebow nor Brady Quinn has separated himself in the chase to be the No.2 quarterback and they will compete for the spot this week.For what it’s worth, I expect Tebow to be the No. 2 quarterback for Denver on most game days.

This one has to sting Denver: Detroit traded offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus to Seattle for a late-round pick. The Lions claimed Polumbus off waivers from Denver last week. Way to flip a player, Detroit.
The release of Justin Fargas in Denver means a few things.

First, it means Fargas’ career may be coming to an end. The former effective Oakland back showed very little in his 19-day stint in Denver. He had 17 yards on 10 carries in the preseason. He had a hard time getting a job after Oakland cut him in March because of his history of health issues. His short stint in Denver will likely not make teams want to reconsider him.

Also, his release means running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter are probably getting closer to the field. Their injuries were one of the reasons why Fargas was inked.

Denver could scour the waiver wire for running backs. Backups LenDale White and Lance Ball are intriguing, but it wouldn’t be a shock if the Broncos continue to study running backs now that Fargas is out of the picture. In addition to Fargas, Denver waived/injured cornerback Tony Carter.
The Denver Broncos are finally getting their health back.

Denver, which has been ravaged by injuries this summer, saw the return of running back Correll Buckhalter, cornerback Champ Bailey, receiver Demaryius Thomas, linebacker D.J. Williams and guard Chris Kuper. They are all on pace to be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 at Jacksonville.

The most significant news may come Wednesday when he team expects left tackle Ryan Clady to return to practice. Clady has been out since April with a torn patella tendon while playing basketball in April. The team is hopeful he can play by the start of the regular season. If an All-Pro player can be ready for the Jaguars, it will be a huge boost for Denver's offfense.

Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow is still not practicing with a rib injury that has kept him out of action since last Wednesday. It is unclear if Tebow will be ready to play Sunday against Pittsburgh.

McDaniels said linebacker Akin Ayodele was cut Tuesday because Mario Haggan is being moved back from outside to inside linebacker. Because Ayodele is going to be backup, the team thought it was better to keep a backup who can help more on special teams. Ayodele did start Denver’s two preseason games.

Meanwhile, Denver claimed tight end Kory Sperry off waivers from Miami. The Colorado State product was previously with San Diego. Denver also cut tackle Tyler Polumbus, who has struggled often this summer.

Around the AFC West

August, 23, 2010
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Denver

The Broncos’ run game has not been strong.

My take: The Broncos should be in much better shape when Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter return. However, the lack of an attack without these two shows how important they are to the team. If Moreno and Buckhalter, who have a history of injuries, miss time in the regular season, Denver could be in trouble.

Kansas City

The Chiefs are standing by struggling cornerback Brandon Flowers.

My take: Good idea. Flowers is a good player and he’ll be fine. The preseason is for working out kinks. Flowers is a positive for the Chiefs, not a negative.

Oakland

The Raiders’ defense is looking stout.

My take: This is a huge development. If the Raiders are going to make big strides this season, it will be because the defense improves greatly. So far, so good.

San Diego

Philip Rivers reminded everyone what type of player he is by making a big tackle on a fumble recovery in a preseason game.

My take: I’m sure hearts dropped throughout the city of San Diego when Rivers registered the hit, but that’s him. That’s his game. Preseason or not.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 11, 2010
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 23

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After he watched one key player after another limp to the training room this summer, Josh McDaniels came to a conclusion: The Denver Broncos are going to find a way to get better as a result.

Call it medical motivation.

“Sometimes, when everybody around you thinks the sky is falling because of injuries, it could rally a team,” the second-year Denver coach said. “That’s what we are doing. We are going to be motivated to show we can withstand what has happened to us. We’re not sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves.”

McDaniels swears Denver is having a productive training camp despite being the most injured team in the NFL. The biggest hit was the loss of star linebacker Elvis Dumervil. He is likely out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Other players who have been lost during camp include running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, safety Brian Dawkins and linebackers D.J. Williams and Jarvis Moss. Don’t forget that left tackle Ryan Clady is out until sometime in September after hurting his knee in the offseason.

Still, McDaniels said it’s not a time of despair, because everyone but Dumervil is expected back in the near future.

“It hurts to lose Elvis, but maybe the other injuries are good that they happened now,” McDaniels said. “We are not worrying about who is not here. We trust our depth and we’re dealing with it.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Jack DempseyTim Tebow got a new haircut on Tuesday, replacing the monk haircut from earlier in the week.
1. How will the Tebow factor affect the team? There is not a rookie in the NFL who is getting the attention that Tim Tebow is receiving. From special Nike shoes to a hideous training-camp haircut to operating in short yardage situations, the Tebow Watch is in full force.

The question is how his work in camp will affect the team on the field. The former Florida star quarterback has operated in short-yardage situations and he will likely be used in the Wildcat formation and in the red zone. That likely means Denver will keep quarterbacks Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow on the 45-man roster on game days. In June, McDaniels said he was leaning away from that.

But it is clear that Tebow is being groomed to be active as a rookie. Unless Tebow completely leapfrogs Quinn in training camp and in the preseason, Denver could be using three quarterbacks on game days, which will take away from another position.

2. Can this team forget the final 10 games of 2009? Denver was the most perplexing team in the NFL in 2009. It shocked the league by starting 6-0. However, it suddenly fell apart and lost eight of its final 10 games.

Which team will we see in 2010? McDaniels, of course, won’t guarantee anything, but he believes Denver is heading in the right direction because of a strong training camp.

He said the team is making big strides this year because his program is established after 14 years under Mike Shanahan. McDaniels pointed out how much smoother and productive Denver was in its team scrimmage last weekend compared to last year’s scrimmage.

“It’s night and day,” McDaniels said. “Everybody knows the system now and that has helped camp.”

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireKnowshon Moreno, the team's leading rusher last season, is out with a hamstring injury.
3. Can the running backs stay healthy? Moreno (hamstring) and Buckhalter (back) are supposed to be ready this month. But seeing the top two running backs go down on the first full day of camp had to be scary for Denver. The team has big plans for Moreno and Buckhalter.

Denver brought in veteran LenDale White to help in camp and perhaps as a short-yardage runner once he serves a four-game NFL suspension. The team is discussing signing former Oakland tailback Justin Fargas, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

This is still the Moreno and Buckhalter show, but the Broncos have been forced to look at other options. Expect Moreno and Buckhalter to be handled very gingerly for the rest of camp and in the preseason in an attempt to ensure their health for the start of the regular season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Broncos are excited about their receivers.

Brandon Lloyd and Matthew Willis have been outstanding. Eddie Royal is playing well in camp and the team hopes he can bounce back from a poor first season under McDaniels. After catching 91 passes as a rookie, Royal had just 37 catches last season.

Add rookies Thomas and Decker and Denver could have a decent receiving crew. That looked shaky after the team sent talented but troubled Brandon Marshall to Miami in April.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

How can it be anything other than the injury to Dumervil? He is arguably Denver’s best player and he just signed a huge, new contract. Denver was looking for him to have a dominant season. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks last season.

Denver will have to find a pass rush elsewhere. A top candidate is 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers. He struggled as a rookie. But he has been good in camp. Ayers will get every chance to turn it on and help make this bad situation workable.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeKyle Orton
    Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIKyle Orton passed for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the Broncos last season.
    Orton has quietly been a star in camp. He had a strong offseason and is, by far, the most accurate of three quarterbacks. While the future is Tebow’s in Denver, Orton is going to do everything he can to make 2010 special before he hits the free-agency market in 2011.
  • Quinn, the current No. 2 quarterback in Denver, has been inaccurate often. The Broncos still like Quinn, who was acquired from Cleveland in March. However, with Orton being the immediate starter and Tebow being the future starter, he has his work cut out for him to find a spot in Denver.
  • Keep an eye out for fifth-round pick Perrish Cox. He’s been outstanding in camp. “Every day, I look up and Perrish is making another big play,” Royal said. Cox is second at left cornerback behind star Champ Bailey. Cox will likely be the nickel cornerback. He is also dynamic as a return man.
  • While Cox is ascending, second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith is still not progressing. Smith was the No. 37 overall pick in 2009. Denver gave up its first-round pick for Smith in 2010 (which was No. 14). He floundered as a rookie and he is not showing much improvement in camp as Cox is stealing the show.
  • Richard Quinn, a second-round pick in 2009, is blocking very well in camp. He still must improve as a receiver, but Denver should feel comfortable with him in double tight-end sets with starter Daniel Graham.
  • So far, defensive end Ryan McBean is holding off free-agent pickup Jarvis Green. However, the team likes Green and he is very versatile.
  • Denver likes what it sees in former San Diego defensive tackle Jamal Williams in the early stages. With Dumervil out, a lot of Denver’s defensive burst must start from him at nose tackle. That may mean Williams may be on the field more than Denver likes. But he is showing, even at 34 and after missing all but one game in San Diego last year, he could still be a force.
  • Denver knows it won’t all be roses, but it is at terms with rookies J.D. Walton (center) and Zane Beadles (guard) starting. Both players have showed intelligence and toughness in camp. Most importantly, they are big and strong and they are well suited for the power-blocking scheme McDaniels is adopting. Denver is scrapping the zone-blocking scheme used during the Shanahan era. One of the reasons is McDaniels wants a bigger offensive line that can stay fresh throughout the season.
  • D’Anthony Batiste is doing well at left tackle. The Broncos think he will be a valuable backup when Clady returns from a knee injury in September.
  • Inside linebacker Joe Mays, acquired from Philadelphia for running back J.J. Arrington less than two weeks ago, is impressing. He has worked some with the first team. He is likely to be a key backup and a special teamer.
  • Veteran defensive lineman Marcus Thomas is buried on the depth chart. If he doesn’t pick up the rest of camp, he could be a candidate to be cut.
  • Punter Britton Colquitt, the younger brother of Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt, is doing well and he will likely win the job. He is going unchallenged, but if he falters, Denver could scour the waiver wire. So far, he is showing that may not be necessary.

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