Thursday, January 9, 2014
Chargers will see healthier Broncos
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos will look far differently, especially on defense, when they face the San Diego Chargers this time around.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe continues to be the only player on the 53-man roster who has not practiced this week. Wolfe was held out of Thursday’s practice and will not make his return to the playing field in Sunday’s Divisional-round game.
But everyone else on the roster is available and continued to work Thursday.
Wide receiver Wes Welker, who missed the last three games of the regular season, including the Dec. 12 loss to the Chargers, continues to be on track to play. With Welker out, The Chargers were able to limit Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's ability to get the ball to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas in last month’s game.
The two Thomas’ and Decker caught just three passes combined after halftime in the loss. That will be far more difficult to do with Welker in the lineup.
“I’m sure (Welker’s) missed playing," said Broncos coach John Fox. “ … He is an extreme competitor, I’d say it’s fair to say he’s pretty excited."
But defensively, the Broncos will also offer a different look. Cornerback Champ Bailey did not play in either game against the Chargers this season, and his presence has enabled the Broncos to have more variety in coverages and tighten things down of late. Bailey has played largely in the nickel (five defensive backs) since his return to the lineup in the regular season’s final two games.
“We’ll be ready to go," Bailey said. “ … I feel good about where we are, I’m just ready to get to this game."
The Broncos held the Texans and Raiders to 240 and 255 yards, respectively, in the last two games of the regular season with Bailey playing in that nickel role. It has enabled defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to have far more options in how he allocates the team's personnel. Bailey has received treatment for a left shoulder injury this week, but took part fully in Thursday’s practice.
Wolfe has practiced just twice since Nov. 29 when he suffered “seizure-like symptoms" on the team’s bus ride to the airport for a trip to Kansas City. He took part in the Broncos’ Christmas Day practice, missed the next day with the flu, then practiced on a limited basis Dec. 27.
He has not practiced since.
Safety Duke Ihenacho and center Steve Vallos, who have suffered concussions in the final weeks of the regular season, took part fully in Thursday’s practice, and both would be available for Sunday’s game.