NFL Nation: Joel Dreessen

When he was behind center for the Denver Broncos, John Elway was a 30-something player, was one for quite some time in fact. He was a Super Bowl starter as a 37- and a 38-year-old as the Broncos won back-to-back titles in the final two years of his playing career.

So he knows the value a productive, respected, proven veteran player can bring to a team, on the field and in the locker room.

But as an executive charged with spending Pat Bowlen’s money wisely and keeping the Broncos relevant in the Super Bowl chase every season, Elway has been particular about handing out the team’s biggest checks in free agency to the over-30 crowd.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/James D. SmithJohn Elway on signing pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware: "We feel like he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
In fact, three trips into free agency in his current job, the list is essentially two -- Peyton Manning and now DeMarcus Ware -- and Elway is pretty clear on why he made them exceptions to the rule.

“I like to get Hall of Fame players with chips on their shoulders," Elway said.

In 2011, Elway’s first year in his role as the team’s chief football decision-maker, the Broncos only dabbled in free agency, sticking with short-term deals for the likes of Marcus Thomas, Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario.

In 2012, the Broncos dove in for Manning for a $96 million deal that included a pile of guaranteed money when Manning was ready to turn 36 following four neck surgeries. That has worked out with back-to-back 13-3 seasons and back-to-back division titles with some NFL single-season records tossed in.

The rest of the deals in 2012 were largely short-term, low-impact contracts. Tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen received three-year deals. Tamme turned 27 just after signing his deal, and Dreessen was 29 when he signed. The 30-and-over crowd of Keith Brooking, Jim Leonhard, Dan Koppen and Brandon Stokley received one-year deals.

Safety Mike Adams was 30 when he signed and received a two-year deal. Adams, however, had played in at least 15 games in five of the previous six seasons before arriving in Denver. The rest, players such as Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer, both 30 or older, received one-year deals without signing bonuses.

In 2013, the Broncos’ biggest contract in free agency (four years, $23.5 million) went to guard Louis Vasquez, who was 25 when he signed his deal and went on to be named All-Pro. Terrance Knighton received a two-year deal, as did Wes Welker.

This past week, the Broncos were one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, but they still largely stuck to the younger-is-better plan when the big money was in play. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety T.J. Ward are 27 (Sanders turned 27 this week), and cornerback Aqib Talib is 28.

“It’s not [win] for now. We want young football players who are going to be here for a long time," Elway said. “... The age thing is big."

But in Ware, the Broncos saw a durable, high character player with 117 career sacks who has been a team captain and performed over the long haul. Ware, who soon will be 32, received a three-year, $30 million deal from the Broncos.

For that deal not to sting the salary cap, however, Ware simply has to play at least two of those seasons and be a major contributor. But the Broncos like that Ware’s preparation is unquestioned and that he has missed just three games in his career -- all in 2013.

“With 117 sacks, yeah, we feel like he’s got a lot of football ahead of him," Elway said. " ... We think he's going to perform at a high level, and with the way he practices, prepares and his knowledge of the game, he's going to help us on a lot of levels."

Elway the player made a career of taking risks with the ball and often turning those opportunities into history. Elway the executive has been more prudent -- a guy looking down the road, avoiding the franchise-crushing confines created by a we'll-worry-about-it-later approach to the salary cap.

“You have your wish list," Elway said. “We’re fortunate enough on our wish list we were able to X off a lot of guys on our wish list and [they] were able to come here. ... We want to plug in the right guys, the guys that make sense for us as an organization and guys who can be here and help us win for a long, long time."

Denver Broncos season wrap-up

February, 5, 2014
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video Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 2
Preseason Power Ranking: 3

Biggest surprise: It took 19 games, a pile of league records and a few slices of history along the way, but by far the biggest shock for an organization that believed it had the moxie to win a title was its Super Bowl meltdown. Broncos head coach John Fox had said his team was “calloused" by all it had to overcome this season, including linebacker Von Miller's six-game suspension, five defensive starters eventually landing on injured reserve and Fox's open-heart surgery. But on the biggest stage with the biggest prize on the line, the Broncos had a night when they didn't respond to any of the adversity they faced.

Biggest disappointment: Other than losing in the title game -- “I'm not sure you ever get over that," said quarterback Peyton Manning -- it would have to be the way Miller's season dissolved. After his 18.5-sack season in 2012, the Broncos expected even more this time around. Instead, he was out for the first six games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He came back heavier after the suspension and often looked less explosive according to many personnel executives in the league. He then suffered a season-ending torn right ACL in December. He won't be ready for training camp and may not be full speed by the start of the regular season.

Biggest need: In their past three playoff losses, the Broncos have had a combined one sack against Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. Miller has played in two of those games, albeit with a cast on his surgically repaired thumb to close out the 2011 season against the New England Patriots. They have used their opening pick in each of John Elway's three drafts as the team's top football executive on a pass-rusher -- Miller, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams. It still needs some attention, as does the team's secondary; the Broncos will need to address cornerback and safety as well.

Team MVP: Manning, with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards passing for an offense that set an NFL record with 606 points, was the league MVP and was the Broncos' as well. Manning's drive, preparation and no-nonsense approach pushed the team past every bump it faced during the regular season, and he powered the franchise into its seventh Super Bowl. But cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Danny Trevathan deserve special mention for being the defense's most versatile and productive players outside the glare of the team's offensive fireworks in the regular season. Trevathan and Harris were consistently the guys asked to do more in Jack Del Rio's defense.

 

Jammer among Broncos' inactives

February, 2, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Denver Broncos inactives for Super Bowl XLVIII included at least one minor surprise when cornerback Quentin Jammer was one of the seven players who will not suit up for the game, according to the Broncos.

Jammer had played in some of the Broncos' specialty units down the stretch and the decision meant cornerback Marquice Cole, who was signed in the days leading up to the AFC Championship game, would be in uniform Sunday night.

The Broncos' other inactives are: quarterback Zac Dysert, running back Ronnie Hillman, tackle Vinston Painter, guard Chris Kuper, tight end Joel Dreessen and defensive tackle Sione Fua.

Fua has battled a calf injury for the last week.
Geno SmithSteve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsMore will be expected of QB Geno Smith in his second NFL season.
NEW YORK -- Talking New York Jets and Super Bowl XLVIII from the greatest city in the world:

1. Not yet, Geno: Hoping to get a sense of how non-Jets personnel feel about Geno Smith, I interviewed 10 experts throughout the week -- talent evaluators, analysts and former players-turned-analysts. The overwheleming consensus: He hasn't done enough to be anointed the Jets' franchise quarterback, although many believe he deserves another shot with a better supporting cast.

"I don't think you just hand him the job," CBS' Rich Gannon said. "I think you make it a competitive situation. They have to get better at that position. They need more depth and talent there, and I anticipate that will happen this offseason."

A longtime personnel man mentioned two weaknesses and raised a question about Smith, saying: His body is "too soft," he must do a better job of processing information and, "Does he love football or does he like football?" In professional football, there's a huge difference.

Bart Scott said "you can't get a fair assessment" of Smith because of the lack of weapons on offense. He suggested acquiring Matt Schaub, who many believe will be released by the Houston Texans. Schaub is "somebody who can compete and steady the ship, a bridge if Geno isn't ready yet. If not, you move on and draft somebody else."

Former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said, "I don't think he's done enough to secure the job. I think he's done some good things, but he's done a lot of bad things, too, so I wouldn't bank on Geno Smith. He's a guy that can be promising -- he has a lot of potential -- but potential gets coaches fired."

Tony Richardson said the Jets should sign a veteran and create a competition, with Smith having "the upper hand" at the outset. Smith used up his slack last season, according to Richardson, who said "Jets fans went through the growing pains and now it's time to win football games. The best guy should be the starter, period."

Anthony Becht believes the Jets should be patient with Smith because of his physical talent. He said it was "a humbling year" for Smith, starting with his unexpected slide in the draft. The adversity, Becht said, will fuel Smith's motivation. "You stick with the guy," he said. "People are afraid to take the time and develop talent. Sometimes they don't come right out of the box."

Wilkerson
2. Mo money for Wilkerson?: It'll be fascinating to see how the Muhammad Wilkerson contract situation plays out -- all the 2011 first-round picks, for that matter. Some in the industry believe Wilkerson, who has outperformed his rookie contract, should play hardball and stage a training camp holdout, if necessary. As I explained last Sunday, the Jets can have him for only about $7.2 million over the next two years, assuming they exercise the fifth-year option in May. He's scheduled to make only $1.2 million in 2014 and, although the '15 option year would be guaranteed against injury, it's still a risk. This is uncharted territory because the '11 draft is the first affected by the new CBA. On Saturday, GM John Idzik declined to reveal his plans for Wilkerson.

2a. Temple of doom: Wilkerson played two years at Temple with Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton -- aka Pot Roast. Wilkerson was the young pup, Knighton the upperclassman. Knighton knew Wilkersom was something special. "He was actually my backup," Pot Roast said. "He's a great player. The whole time I was at Temple, I was hoping he wasn't going to start over me."

3. Spy Games: The acrimony between the Jets and New England Patriots runs so deep that, before the AFC Championship Game was played, the Patriots were squawking about the prospect of having to practice at the Jets' facility during the run-up to the Super Bowl. In fact, they wanted to practice at Rutgers instead of the Jets. It turned out to be a moot point, obviously. Both the Jets and Giants, concerned about the possibility of hosting division rivals for the week, actually asked the league if they could trade places -- NFC team at the Jets, AFC at the Giants. That request was denied. As it turned out, the Jets and Broncos hit it off. The Jets found the Broncos to be terrific guests.

4. Give my regards to Bradway: Only two players from Terry Bradway's final draft as the Jets' GM (2005) remain active in the league -- kicker Mike Nugent (Cincinnati Bengals) and tight end Joel Dreessen (Broncos). Dreessen played one season with the Jets and was cut by Eric Mangini in 2006. He never forgot it. In 2010, as a member of the Texans, he caught four passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. When he scored, he fired the football at a Jets logo on the wall behind the end zone. "That was one of my most liberating moments," Dreessen told me. "That was a really cool moment for me."

5. Trade winds: The Jets should be monitoring the Larry Fitzgerald contract situation in Arizona. If it falls apart, the Jets should swoop in to see if he'd be available in a trade. Even though he turns 31 in August, Fitzgerald would be a perfect fit for the receiver-needy Jets -- at the right price, of course. He told several media outlets this week at the Super Bowl that he's willing to restructure his contract, which has an $18 million cap charge in 2014. Stay tuned.

Ryan
6. The Rex-tension: Maybe it's just me, but ...

Every time Rex Ryan does an interview (and he did plenty this week) and is asked about his recent contract extension, it sounds like he's trying to convince everyone (maybe even himself) that he's happy with the outcome. Just my two cents.

7. Speaking the same language: After listening to the Seattle Seahawks for a week, it's amazing how much their players and coaches emphasize competition. Sound familiar? Idzik, a former Seahawks executive, preaches the same gospel. It's rooted in the Pete Carroll philosophy. In fact, Carroll takes it to the extreme with "Competition Wednesday." Every Wednesday, the first-team offense competes against the first-team defense in an unscripted practice -- highly unusual in the NFL. Not even the Jets go that far. But, hey, it's a copy-cat league. If the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, you might see a "Competition Wednesday" or two popping up around the NFL.

8. No Ordinary Joe: Talked to a couple of Hall of Fame voters this week who can't believe Joe Klecko never garners serious consideration for the Hall. It's hard to believe, isn't it? All he did was make the Pro Bowl at three different positions on the defensive line.

Sapp
9. Sad Sapp: Warren Sapp is an embarrassment. Actually, it's sad to see a Hall of Famer -- a person who accomplished so much professionally -- behave like a spoiled, jealous kid. This week, on the NFL's biggest stage, Sapp felt it was his place to dump on Michael Strahan's Hall of Fame candidacy. Sinking to another low, Sapp, in an interview with the New York Daily News, took a couple of shots at Jets rookie DT Sheldon Richardson. Memo to Sapp: Grow up or please go away.

10. An Ode to Peyton: Heard this anecdote about Peyton Manning a few years ago, and it bears repeating on Super Bowl Sunday. In 1998, Manning and Ryan Leaf were projected as the top two picks in the draft. The Chargers, picking second, wanted to interview both prospects. They sent an abbreviated version of their playbook to each and asked them to learn the offense before the interview. As a reward and a test, the coaches stapled a $20 bill to the last page -- a clever way to determine if they'd read the entire book. Leaf arrived for his interview and never mentioned anything about the $20. Clearly, he didn't know it was there. Manning showed up and immediately thanked the coaches for the $20. And there you have it. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they never got a shot at Manning, who went No. 1 overall.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- When he played for the New York Jets in 2005, tight end Joel Dreessen experienced perhaps the most tumultuous quarterback season in team history. The Jets used five quarterbacks that year -- Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler, Vinny Testaverde, Brooks Bollinger and Kliff Kingsbury.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning, Joel Dreessen
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezFormer Jets tight end Joel Dreessen, right, described Broncos teammate Peyton Manning as an extraordinarily demanding and tireless worker.
Now he has one -- Peyton Manning.

Dreessen, a sixth-round pick of the Jets in '05, has gone from a mess to a football messiah. In an inteview Thursday with ESPNNewYork.com, he provided insight into what it's like playing with one of the best quarterbacks in history.

Dreessen described Manning as an extraordinarily demanding and tireless worker who never accepts excuses for failure:

"If you drop a pass, he'll try to settle you and say, 'You have to make that play, you have to make that play,'" said Dreessen, who signed with the Denver Broncos in 2012. "It's not like he's trying to embarrass you or make you feel like crap. There was one time, I dropped a pass. It was in Mile High, a regular-season game. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see it and I couldn't bring in the ball. He yelled at me and I said, 'Man, I can't see.' The whole next week at practice, he was giving me grief for the sun being in my eyes. Basically, it was like, 'You have to learn to catch the ball even when the sun is in your eyes.

"When we miss a throw in practice, you can expect to stay after to do it again, even if it's just on air. He wants to walk off the field feeling good about every play.

"On game day, he's pretty serious. He doesn't joke in the huddle or on the sideline. He'll joke around in meetings at times, but I can't think of any game day where he did. Actually, I remember one game where he smiled. It was the opener [Manning's seven-touchdown performance]. I was inactive because I was hurt. He had just thrown touchdown No. 5 against the Ravens and I greeted him on the sideline. I said, 'Five touchdowns?!' He was smiling a little and, under his breath, he said, 'There might be more.' He was right.

"He's a machine. It makes you feel like, if you're in another offense or have another quarterback, you're beating your head against the wall because they can't do what he does as far as getting us in the best play every time. Really, he's like a scientist, except he's 6-foot-5 and he throws the ball amazingly accurate.

"He's going to put it most of the time where you -- and only you -- can catch it. When I first got here, I was frustrated because if I was wide open, most quarterbacks would put the ball right on me. But he's going to keep leading you so you can run underneath it and have more room to run after the catch, keeping it further away from the defender. It's a very catchable ball, a very accurate ball. Even when it's not, he expects you to catch it.

"You definitely want to match his work ethic and preparation. It kind of gets to be a competition: Who can know more about the opponent than Peyton? Who can know the offense better than Peyton? He'll go around the room and quiz guys about their assignments on particular plays. It happens all the time. He makes sure you're on top of it. He really does raise the expectation level at every position. Same with the coaches. He wants information from the coaches. Before he starts his preparation, he wants breakdowns and statistics. It's not just the players he raises up, it's the coaches, too.

"I always come in on Tuesday [our day off] to do some weight lifting. By the time I leave around lunch time, he's coming in early to get a jump-start with the coaches on the game plan. His day off is really not a day off. He truly honors all six months of the season. He takes a few hours off here and there, but I've never seen him take a full day off.

"Honestly, I can say he's not preparing any different for this game than he would a preseason game. I kid you not. Every game is important. To say he's preparing harder for the Super Bowl would be an insult because that would suggest he wasn't preparting as hard as he could for the other games.

"Some day, if I'm telling my grandchildren about Peyton Manning, I'd probably describe how gifted a person he is as far as his intelligence and his technique and his accuracy. I'd describe those things and add to it his work ethic. He's gifted, but he worked at it."

Jacob Tamme rides out winds of change

December, 11, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Change, former Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith has often said, is "the only thing that stays the same" in the NFL.

Those who can't deal with that idea as they go about their football business "find themselves on the other side of the wall and they can't get back in."

There are those among this year's Broncos who have lived with change, wrestled with it, dealt with it, and still flourished with the team. A player such as Knowshon Moreno, who went from being a game-day inactive eight times in 2012 to the first choice at running back this season, is now on the doorstep of his first career 1,000-yard season.

Take a guy such as tight end Jacob Tamme.

[+] EnlargeJacob Tamme
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsWith Wes Welker out of the lineup, Jacob Tamme's role in the offense should grow.
"I'm just ready for whatever I'm asked to do," Tamme said. "It changes sometimes, it varies from time to time, so be prepared to do what's needed. That's kind of how I go about things, take care of what I need to take care of and not worry about the rest of it."

With Wes Welker ruled out for Thursday night's game against the San Diego Chargers due to a concussion -- his second concussion in the past four games -- Tamme figures to become a far bigger piece of the Broncos' puzzle on offense. It's a role Tamme had last season, before Welker was signed.

In 2012, when Tamme essentially worked out of the slot like a third wide receiver, he finished with 52 receptions, including a nine-catch day in a late-season win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After Welker joined the Broncos last March, Tamme's role in the offense went from regular contributor to spotty at best. Tamme didn't play more than 10 snaps on offense in any of the first 10 games of the season.

"You just prepare, do the work," Tamme said. "Something that's been a focus here from the beginning at the position, they want people who can do a lot of things at tight end. I feel like I can do a lot of different things, play in a lot of different spots."

But with Welker taking most of the snaps that were once Tamme's in the offense, Tamme simply went about the business of leading the team in special-teams tackles. He has nine, two more than special-teams captain David Bruton.

Tamme has played 285 plays on special teams through 13 games compared to 101 special-teams snaps all of last season. And on offense he has played 154 snaps so far this season (15.4 percent) compared to 528 plays on offense (46.2 percent) all of last season.

"You want guys on your team to understand it takes everybody, every day, to win," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "It's part of building a team, from staff, coaches and players, everybody has to participate and contribute. Sometimes that requires different things, sometimes it's more of one thing and less of another. If you don't work through that as a team, and keep moving, you're going to have a hard time being successful, I don't care what you're doing."

But it isn't like Tamme hasn't experienced this kind of ebb and flow before. During his time with the Indianapolis Colts he went from three catches in 2009 to 67 receptions in 2010 when Dallas Clark was injured. This season, the two tight ends the Broncos signed in free agency, Tamme and Joel Dreessen, have seen their playing time in the offense reduced, not only by Welker's arrival, but by tight end Julius Thomas' emergence.

In Thomas' most extensive playing time in his career -- he spent most of two seasons dealing with an ankle injury he suffered on his first NFL reception as a rookie -- he has 50 receptions to go with 11 touchdowns. Thomas' combination of size, speed and athleticism, to go with the trust Peyton Manning has in the third-year player in tight situations, has made him the go-to tight end in the lineup when the Broncos go to their third-wide-receiver look.

When Thomas missed two games with a right knee injury, Virgil Green got the starts and most of the work in Thomas' place against New England and Kansas City. But with Welker out things change. It figures to be Tamme in the lineup with Thomas much of the time and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas in the two wide receiver spots.

"[Tamme's] role has changed this year,'' Manning said. " … Obviously Julius has played well this year and Tamme hasn't had as much playing time, but he's had a great attitude. And when his number has been called he's come in there and been outstanding and has a chance to play more down the home stretch here and a real credit to him."

"He's a big part of the offense,'' said Demaryius Thomas. "I feel like you could spread Jacob out to any position because he has good speed, he's smart, he runs great routes and he knows every position on the field. So I think you can put him anywhere on the field to help the offense out and I think that helps us."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos liked what they saw of quarterback Peyton Manning over the past two days of practice, so much so they, as expected, formally listed Manning as probable for Sunday night’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Manning
But interim head coach Jack Del Rio said following Friday’s practice he would go one better than that.

“They don’t have a definite category on there, or I would check it off," Del Rio said. " ... He’s ready to go, and as a team we’re ready to go."

Manning had missed Wednesday’s practice because of a right ankle injury, but has said through the week he planned to start Sunday. He practiced without any issues both Thursday and Friday.

The news wasn’t quite as good for cornerback Champ Bailey, who has played in just two games this season because of a left foot injury he suffered in the preseason. Bailey did practice through the week on a limited basis, including in Friday’s workout, but was listed as doubtful for the game.

“And he is listed as doubtful, I believe, and it is doubtful that he’ll play," Del Rio said.

Linebacker Nate Irving (right shoulder) participated on Friday on a limited basis and was listed as questionable. Irving would likely have to improve over the next two days to play in Sunday’s game.

Tight end Joel Dreessen (knee), who was held out of Wednesday’s practice, practiced both Thursday and Friday and is expected to play. Safety Duke Ihenacho (ankle) and wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle), who had been limited some this week, were full participants Friday and will play.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos were back to full strength for Thursday's practice.

Manning
Quarterback Peyton Manning (right ankle), linebacker Nate Irving (right shoulder) and tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) all returned to the field after being held out of Wednesday’s workout. All three were formally listed as limited.

Manning and Dreessen are expected to play in Sunday’s game against Kansas City, while Irving is still a question mark. For his part Manning did plenty of work with the starters and showed no signs of mobility issues as he moved through drills.

“He looked pretty good,’’ Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said with a laugh. “He’s doing the things he needs to do.’’

Cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot) and safety Duke Ihenacho (ankle) also were listed as limited during the workout. Wide receiver Wes Welker, who had been limited in Wednesday’s practice because of an ankle injury, was a full participant Thursday and is expected to take his full allotment of work Sunday night.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan was excused from practice. He is expected back for Friday's practice and will play Sunday.
DENVER -- There are times, when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning leaves his helmet on after he exits the field, when it’s pretty clear he had hoped to get clearance to go for it on fourth down.

When it’s clear he believed the time was right to roll the dice, take a chance.

Manning
But when the Broncos faced a fourth-and-3 in the second quarter of Sunday’s win against the Washington Redskins, the ball was at the Redskins’ 43-yard line and the Broncos had a 7-0 lead. So, when Manning made the case, albeit briefly as he jogged to the sideline, Broncos coach John Fox still sent the punt team on.

However, when the Broncos faced a fourth-and-2 at the Redskins’ 20-yard line, trailing 21-7 in the third quarter having just seen two of their turnovers turned into two Washington touchdowns, now, that was a different story.

"Certainly as an offense, we like it," Manning said. "... I think there is a real motivation to please him and make it successful so you can do it again."

Manning sent running back Knowshon Moreno into the middle of the Redskins defense on a quick-hit play that gained five yards. Three plays later the Broncos had a touchdown and had cut Washington’s lead to 21-14 with an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

"At the end of the day it was a manageable distance," said Fox. "So, that’s why we elected to go for it."

The Broncos dialed it up again on their next possession. Having run 15 plays to move the ball 82 yards to the Redskins’ 1-yard line, the Broncos faced fourth-and-goal. The Broncos again elected to leave Manning and the offense on the field and were rewarded, again, this time with a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Joel Dreessen out of the heaviest of formations that featured three tight ends to go with defensive tackle Mitch Unrein lined up out wide as a receiver.

"Mitch is always a threat out there," Manning said with a smile. "Never know how a defense is going to play him, whether they’re going to double him or not. It’s definitely good to throw a little wrinkle at the defense."

Dreessen's touchdown tied the game at 21-21 and the Broncos never looked back. In the end the Broncos scored 38 unanswered points, 31 of those in the fourth quarter.

“We put our defense in a tough spot with turnovers back to back," Manning said. " … Those first two drives after the first two turnovers and we were able to tie the game. That one to make it 21-14 was critical."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos may be forced to juggle their battered offensive line once again Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Guard Chris Kuper, who was already in the starting lineup because right tackle Orlando Franklin was injured, missed his second consecutive day of practice Thursday because of an ankle injury. Kuper has had multiple surgeries on his ankle since he dislocated it in the 2011 regular-season finale.

For his part Franklin (ankle) was limited in Thursday’s practice after being held out of Wednesday’s practice. Kuper appears unlikely to play Sunday at this point and Franklin isn’t yet full speed, so the Broncos may have to put Winston Justice into the lineup for the first time this season.

Justice was signed when Ryan Clady was moved to injured reserve earlier this season. Should the Broncos put Justice in the lineup for Franklin they could move Louis Vasquez back to his right guard spot and give Justice help if needed with a few more two-tight-end looks.

Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) also did not practice Thursday and is not expected to play until some point after the Broncos’ bye week. Wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) and defensive end Shaun Phillips (hamstring) were all limited in Thursday’s practice but all three are expected to play Sunday.

Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (groin), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (neck), wide receiver Eric Decker (toe) and defensive end Robert Ayers (shoulder) all participated fully Thursday and all are expected to play.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos gave several veteran players, including quarterback Peyton Manning, the day off in an effort to deal with some aches and pains in the wake of Sunday night’s loss in Indianapolis.

Wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee), guard Chris Kuper (ankle), wide receiver Eric Decker (toe) and defensive end Shaun Phillips (hamstring) were held out of Wednesday’s practice. However, all are expected to practice as the week goes on and be available for Sunday’s game. Manning was held out with a minor ankle injury, but said following practice he would practice Thursday and be ready to start Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

“Just some of it is wear and tear of being almost halfway through an NFL season,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said. “Some of it is guys who are a little further along in their careers resting to make sure they’re ready to play on Sunday.’’

Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) and tackle Orlando Franklin (ankle) also were held out of Wednesday’s practice. Bailey won’t play against the Redskins; Franklin is still a major question mark for the game, but he did do some work with the team’s strength coaches Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (groin) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (neck) were limited in the practice. Woodyard, who has missed the last two games, said he felt like he was progressing enough to play Sunday.

Hankerson sidelined with foot injury

October, 23, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson did not practice Wednesday after hurting his foot playing with his kids on Tuesday, coach Mike Shanahan said. He did not go into detail on the severity of the injury. Nor is it known whether Hankerson will return to practice Thursday.

If Hankerson can't play, Josh Morgan would return to the lineup as the starting Z receiver. Neither player has been a consistent threat, so it wouldn't be a big drop-off from one to the other.

Defensive end Stephen Bowen was limited because of his torn posterior cruciate ligament. Bowen played with a similar injury two years ago in his other knee, and is hopeful that he'll play Sunday. Safety Reed Doughty (concussion) and backup nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) also were limited in practice. When asked whether he still had symptoms from his concussion, Doughty would only say he'll see how he's feeling Sunday.

For Denver, cornerback Champ Bailey (foot), receiver Eric Decker (toe), quarterback Peyton Manning (ankle), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee), tackle Orlando Franklin (ankle), guard Chris Kuper (ankle), defensive end Shaun Phillips (hamstring), receiver Wes Welker (ankle) all did not practice. Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (groin) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (neck) were limited.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 6

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
12:30
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A review of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 35-19 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars:

[+] EnlargeChamp Bailey
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsThe Denver Broncos could use the veteran experience of cornerback Champ Bailey, who returned to the secondary Sunday for the first time this season.
Air defenses: The Broncos got cornerback Champ Bailey back Sunday, and linebacker Von Miller, who returns next week, says he’s ready to be the impact player he was before his six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse program. During their absences, opposing quarterbacks have found room to work in these pass-happy times. The Jaguars' Chad Henne had the fourth 300-yard passing game the Broncos have surrendered this season -- he’s 29th among league starters in passing yards. In the past two games, the Broncos have surrendered 809 passing yards and registered three interceptions. Last season, the Broncos did not surrender a 300-yard passing game until their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January, when Joe Flacco threw for 331 yards in the Ravens' win.

More pressure: To that end, the Broncos have to find a way to consistently pressure opposing passers. Miller should help if he has done the work he and those around him keep saying he’s done, but Malik Jackson had both Broncos sacks Sunday, and the two plays came during the same series in the third quarter. And that was against a battered Jaguars offensive line that has surrendered the fourth-most sacks in the league (22) after Sunday’s games.

Catch-and-run: With defenses consistently dropping at least seven players into coverage, including linebackers often sprinting away from the line of scrimmage at the snap, the Broncos have picked their spots and still found big plays. Quarterback Peyton Manning has been patient much of the time with at least 15 completions of 10 or fewer yards in each of the past five games and at least 18 completions of 10 or fewer yards in four of those games, including Sunday, when he had 19 completions of 10 or fewer yards against the Jaguars. Yet, the Broncos still lead the league with a gaudy 8.7 yards per pass attempt.

Power up: The Broncos again showed they can go big on offense, with two- and three-tight-end sets effectively moving the ball. After right tackle Orlando Franklin left the game in the third quarter, the Broncos used tight ends Julius Thomas, Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme in a variety of situations, including a pile of snaps on scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters. Thomas played all 74 snaps on offense against the Jaguars, while Dreessen played a season-high 19 snaps on offense, Green played 15 and Tamme nine. Using more of these sets may be something the Broncos give a long look at since Franklin is expected to miss several weeks.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the fast-paced Philadelphia Eagles on deck, the Denver Broncos got a little healthier in the secondary as the week wore on and are still hoping to add Champ Bailey to that mix before Sunday's kickoff.
Bailey
Safety Duke Ihenacho (right ankle) practiced for the first time this week on Friday. He was limited in the workout and is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, but is expected to be ready to play if he has no additional issues in the coming days.

Cornerback Tony Carter (right ankle) practiced fully Friday and was listed as probable. As for Bailey (left foot), he practiced on a limited basis for the second consecutive week. And as the Broncos did last week, they formally listed Bailey as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

Asked if he could make a decision on Bailey’s status after Friday’s practice or would have to see Bailey work on the field in the hours before Sunday’s game, Broncos coach John Fox said: “We’ll make it official an hour and half before kickoff on gameday." Bailey characterized his status as "close, very close.''

Linebacker Paris Lenon (thigh) was the only player held out of practice Friday and was formally listed as doubtful. Lenon is not expected to play against the Eagles. Tight end Joel Dreessen (knee), who like Bailey has yet to play in a game this season, was limited Friday and listed as questionable.

Safety David Bruton (neck), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (left ankle), long snapper Aaron Brewer (rib), running back C.J. Anderson (knee), cornerback Omar Bolden (left shoulder), wide receiver Wes Welker (left ankle), wide receiver Eric Decker (right shoulder), tackle Orlando Franklin (shoulder), guard Chris Kuper (ankle) all practiced fully and were all listed as probable.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho and linebacker Paris Lenon were the only two players held out of Thursday’s practice at the team's Dove Valley complex

Ihenacho (right ankle) and Lenon (thigh) also did not practice Wednesday. Cornerback Tony Carter (right ankle), who had been held out of Wednesday’s practice, did participate Thursday on a limited basis. Ihenacho was originally injured in the Broncos’ win against the Giants, then tweaked the injury against the Raiders this past Monday night.

Cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot), who has missed the Broncos’ first three games, took part on a limited basis.

“It’s been tough, still is tough, because it’s still up in the air," Bailey said. “I’ve never dealt with anything like this, I’m just trying to make the right decision."

Asked if he would be ready to return for Sunday’s game against the Eagles, Bailey said; “Hopefully."

Tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) was also limited. Safety David Bruton (neck), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (left ankle), long snapper Aaron Brewer (rib), running back C.J. Anderson (knee), cornerback Omar Bolden (left shoulder), wide receiver Wes Welker (left ankle), wide receiver Eric Decker (right shoulder), guard Chris Kuper (ankle) all practiced fully.

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