NFL Nation: Quentin Jammer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson isn't sure how many times it happened -- but the Detroit Lions wide receiver is definitely familiar with the phrase "You Got Mossed."

He may have even used it a few times himself.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
Elsa Hasch/Getty Images"Big fan, of course," Calvin Johnson said of Randy Moss. "Everybody used the term, 'You got mossed.'"
Of course, the best receiver currently in the NFL is quite familiar with Randy Moss -- the man who the phrase is named after and the guy who was considered the best receiver in the NFL prior to Johnson.

"Big fan, of course," Johnson said. "Everybody used the term, 'You got mossed.' So, of course, the great catches he made on the field to all of his great plays over the years of his career."

Johnson and Moss are often mentioned in similar breaths when comparisons are made because they are both tall receivers with elite speed and superior leaping ability. Johnson, though, has not yet caught the "30 For 30" on Moss that ran Tuesday night and started the line of questioning about Moss on Wednesday.

"When I first came into the league, Randy Moss was kind of that big, long receiver who could stretch the field, run by you, separate from any corner he played against," former Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer said earlier this year. "(Johnson) is a bigger version of that, out-muscle you and run by you."

Moss is statistically superior to Johnson in comparisons eight years into their careers. Moss had seven 1,000-yard seasons in his first eight years and 10 or more touchdowns in six of his first eight seasons.

Johnson, more than halfway through his eighth season with the Lions, has had five 1,000-yard seasons and caught 10 or more touchdowns four times. He does, though, have the single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards.

There is little doubt, though, the two are contemporaries in a very small class of receivers throughout history, perhaps joined by Jerry Rice and less than a handful of others.

"It's cool," Johnson said of the comparisons to Moss. "You've got big guys that can go up and make big plays down the field, so I think that's the biggest thing."

For opponents, it's been the biggest challenge, too.

Denver Broncos NFL Nation reporter Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A fan asked Matthew Stafford a question Wednesday. It was almost a silly question six years into the quarterback’s NFL career -- especially since throughout his whole career, he has known one receiver more than anyone.

 To paraphrase the question: Was there any awkwardness for him, as a Georgia player, to throw to a receiver who went to rival Georgia Tech?

It took Stafford essentially one day to get over that. When a player is as gifted as Calvin Johnson, it’s easy to forget about college loyalties.

For Stafford, this connection has been extra special and extra important, and he knows it. Johnson is a special player. He is the best receiver in the NFL and perhaps one of the top pass-catchers of all time. Stafford is the second-fastest quarterback ever to throw for 10,000 yards, and a lot of that has to do with the man at the other end of so many of his passes.

All of those skills are why Johnson was named the top offensive player in the NFL by our 90 panelists here at ESPN. This may be a quarterback-driven league, but Johnson is one of the few players any quarterback in the league would want to make him look even better.

In seven years in the NFL, Johnson has amassed 572 catches for 9,328 yards and 66 touchdowns. He holds the single-season receiving yards record with 1,964 yards, and the combination of all of his physical gifts make him torturous to cover for opposing defensive backs, who nearly all admit to needing help to do it.

“When I first came into the league, Randy Moss was kind of that big, long receiver who could stretch the field, run by you, separate from any corner he played against,” cornerback Quentin Jammer told last year. “[Johnson] is a bigger version of that, [he can] out-muscle you and run by you.”

Then there’s how Johnson acts on and off the field. In a wide receiver world in which so many skill players like to talk and draw attention to themselves, Johnson does none of that. He’s almost universally liked, even by the players who have to cover him.

 He is fairly quiet. He rarely boasts and often appears uncomfortable talking about his own ability and feats. He is a superstar in skill and in game, but he's a regular guy when it comes to how he acts.

“When you talk about going against a guy, you look at off-the-field presence, who he is as a player, and he’s just a hardworking, stand-up, nice guy off the field, very humble,” Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “So it’s hard to try and p--- him off, you know. It’s just one of those things.

“But you just want to compete with him because you understand in order to become better and be on to his level, you have to play good every snap because he’s going to bring it every snap. It’s one of those things that you know every single play can be that game-changing play.”

Not many players in the NFL are like that -- and Johnson is one of the most dangerous and best at accomplishing it.

ESPN NFL Nation Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.

Denver Broncos season wrap-up

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the sting of the Super Bowl loss still fresh, the Denver Broncos' chief football decision-maker said the team heads into the offseason under the premise that Peyton Manning will return at quarterback for 2014.

Manning has already said on several occasions his intent is to play in 2014, but executive vice president of football operations John Elway added Tuesday that the Broncos will make offseason decisions based on Manning being behind center. But the team knows the 37-year-old can't play forever, so the Broncos will also keep an eye on making a plan for life without Manning at some point.

"Well, we're going to keep building like Peyton is going to be here," Elway said. "If Peyton decided to hang 'em up, we have expectations hopefully to make that transition. It's going to be tough, but we're going to hopefully be ready for that transition, too. We do that by making sure that we do a good job in the draft, drafting well, and having those young guys come in and perform for us."

Elway has consistently talked of maintaining the youth of the Broncos' roster with homegrown players as the foundation. But last year, the Broncos elected -- either because of injuries or the need to fill holes that remained following the draft -- to reel in some veterans with double-digit years of experience. Defensive end Shaun Phillips (who just finished his 10th season), Quentin Jammer (12th) and linebacker Paris Lenon (12th) were all signed to fill needs.

Of the seven players who closed the season on the Broncos' roster who were in at least their 10th year in the league, four were signed when free agency opened last March.

But Manning's return is the foundation for what the Broncos do across the roster. Manning carries a $17.5 million salary-cap charge in 2014, the team's largest.

"Yeah, but I'll tell you right now it's worth it for us to have Peyton Manning," Elway said. "That's just part of when you get a quality quarterback like that, that we have in Peyton Manning. You know that's going to be a big chunk of your salary cap, but we got to figure out ways to find the right players."

Manning said the 43-8 loss Sunday night didn't "change anything" in regard to his plan for next season. Manning is scheduled to have a physical in the coming week on his surgically repaired neck.

But the Broncos did give him an exit physical Tuesday for everything else, including his ankles, and they expect good news from the coming exam, as well. Manning feels good enough physically to have entered the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, which begins Thursday. Certainly, if the team had any concerns about the quarterback, or if Manning himself had any concerns about his neck, a golf tournament would not be on the docket. Manning will likely have his physical before free agency opens March 11.

Elway said Tuesday he had not yet had a chance to speak to Manning since the team returned to Denver on Monday.

Elway disputed the notion that there was more frustration and disappointment among the team's faithful than there was inside the team's complex.

"Let me tell you this: There is not anybody that is more disappointed about what happened on Sunday than everybody in this organization, especially the coaches and the players in that locker room," Elway said. "They are as disappointed because they are the ones that went through the hard work for the whole year. That's where I get disappointed, because I know how hard they worked and I know how disappointing it is when you aren't able to play your best football game in the Super Bowl like we were."

Jammer among Broncos' inactives

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
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.

Broncos ride the Super Bowl wave

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The Denver Broncos certainly needed their wits about them to handle their media obligations at Super Bowl XLVIII, but they also needed their sea legs.

That’s because the Broncos conducted the week’s media sessions aboard the Cornucopia Majesty, a 30,000 square foot Hoboken, N.J.-based ship docked behind the team’s hotel this week.

And for Wednesday's and Thursday's sessions in particular, there was plenty of motion as the ship rose and fell on the waves.

Cornerback Champ Bailey stepped away from the podium on Wednesday and asked “you feel that?"

And quarterback Peyton Manning offered; “Is this boat moving?" and a little later, in between questions, said “I wasn’t prepared for the rocking cruise ship."

Several players said they were uncomfortable on the bobbing vessel, with cornerback Quentin Jammer offering “I don’t like this at all."

It was somewhat reminiscent of Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. An ice storm hit the city during the week of the league's championship game, and it was unseasonably cold for several consecutive days.

The St. Louis Rams conducted their interview sessions in a ballroom of their hotel while the Tennessee Titans conducted theirs in a large tent that had been erected in the parking lot outside the hotel. When the Titans did their arrival news conference, there was no heat and then coach Jeff Fisher wore an overcoat for his session.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos will play in the franchise's seventh Super Bowl a week from Sunday because they did enough in the draft to make it that far, they did enough in free agency (OK, Peyton Manning is the ultimate free-agency home run) and they made it all work over the past three seasons.

But even with the extreme makeover that came with John Elway's return to the team as its chief football executive in January of 2011, even with the title-game appearance, there is still a roster hole the Broncos will have to address moving forward.

[+] EnlargeShaun Phillips
AP Photo/Ric TapiaJohn Elway signed veterans like Shaun Phillips to help win now, but is also committed to rebuilding through the draft.
Or, to put it another way, there is a reason the Broncos will be the older team in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Broncos have seven players on the current 53-man roster who have played at least 10 seasons in the league, led by Manning's 16. The Seattle Seahawks have one: defensive end Chris Clemons. While the Broncos have certainly climbed all the way out of their 4-12 finish in 2010, they also are still a product of that season and the smattering of nonplayoff finishes that came before it.

For those who believe the draft is the team's foundation -- and Elway counts himself as one of those -- the real guts of a roster are those fifth- and sixth-year, homegrown players. Players drafted and then signed to their second contracts to stay put. Of the Broncos' captains -- Manning, Champ Bailey, David Bruton, Wesley Woodyard and Wes Welker -- just two have been with the team since they were rookies. That’s Bruton (2009 draft) and Woodyard (2008 undrafted rookie).

A player in his sixth season would be a product of the 2008 draft. And since ’08 the Broncos have had two coaching changes and two changes at the call-the-shots general manager level as well. Each resulted in a complete teardown from the previous regime. That is why this current roster includes a pile of young players to go with the veterans who have been around for at least 10 seasons. The Seahawks have 24 players with three seasons experience or less on their current roster -- players who came into the league in 2011 or after, while the Broncos have 22.

It means the Broncos' roster gap is rooted in '08 and '09. For the Broncos, only Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady remains from the ’08 draft, which was Mike Shanahan’s last season with the team, while Woodyard remains a high-quality find as an undrafted rookie from that year as well.

A player in his fifth year would be a product of the 2009 draft. For the Broncos that includes only Bruton, running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive end Robert Ayers. While Bruton is a special-teams regular, Moreno is still the only one of those three players who played at least 50 percent of the team’s snaps on offense or defense this season.

And that has put the Broncos in a position to be active in free agency at the front end -- the recruitment and signing of Manning in 2012 -- to go with a series of one-year contracts to experienced players. This past year that included defensive end Shaun Phillips (10 sacks), cornerback Quentin Jammer and linebacker Paris Lenon.

"I’ve always said if we can find somebody better than we have, we have to find them," Elway said. "And if they’re out there then we’ll sign them. So age and all that at this point in time, with where we were coming out of a 4-12 year and then we go to 8-8 now at that point and then you get a guy like Peyton Manning. Now it’s about trying to find all the pieces together … but we’re not just trying to find young guys. We’re going to find guys that fit, young and old guys, that fit together."

From Elway’s perspective, a Super Bowl trip only helps his cause, as would Manning’s expected return for 2014 if doctors give the quarterback the go-ahead in the weeks following the Super Bowl to play next season. So, even as Elway would continue his quest to "stack those draft classes year after year," to make the draft the foundation of sustaining what they’ve done over the past three seasons, the Broncos would be a popular destination for veteran players in search of success.

"It comes down to the thing is that it’s been my goal to really continue what [Broncos owner] Pat Bowlen created in the fact that people want to play here," Elway said. "So players will come here late in their career when they know they have a chance to win a world championship and they know the reputation of the Denver Broncos since Pat Bowlen has been here that it’s a good place to play … . If money is the No. 1 thing, we’re really not on the same page if it’s all about money, in my mind."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos won’t ask, but in all of the decisions they have to make in the coming days about how they deploy themselves on defense without Chris Harris Jr. in the lineup, there is one thing they shouldn’t do.

They shouldn’t move Champ Bailey. They should leave Bailey in the slot as the team’s nickel cornerback and mix-and-match on the outside.

Harris Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday -- a torn ACL -- and no player in the team’s defense had been on the field for more snaps than Harris Jr. had been up until the point he was injured in the third quarter of the 24-17 victory against the San Diego Chargers.

[+] EnlargeChamp Bailey
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, FileIf the Broncos leave Champ Bailey as the slot cornerback, he could spend much of the AFC title game lined up against New England's top receiver, Julian Edelman.
Harris Jr. played 1,042 snaps on defense in the regular season, the most of any Denver defender. He was one of just two players -- linebacker Danny Trevathan was the other -- to even top 900 snaps in the regular season. So, it is no small consideration, in January, days before the conference championship, for the Broncos to figure out what they want to do next.

Especially when you look at Harris’ impact on Sunday’s game. Looking at the video, it appeared Harris was injured on Keenan Allen's first catch of Sunday’s game -- a 19-yarder on a third-and-3 play with just under eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

To that point, with Harris Jr. in tow plenty of the time, Allen did not have a catch and had been targeted just once -- an incompletion -- by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers before that reception. After Harris Jr. left the game, Allen had five receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos used Quentin Jammer in Harris Jr.'s spot to close out the game and it didn’t go well. Jammer, after not getting all that many reps in practice in the defense last week, was decidedly out of sorts. Certainly some of the issues were speed related for a player in his 12th season at a speed-first position.

But there were some basic positioning/footwork things Jammer has done far better this season, including several snaps when he was simply late to make the change out of his back-pedal against a player with the kind of explosiveness Allen has. And Jammer has played some quality snaps as an early down option in the team’s base defense when they wanted a little more size in the formation.

Though rookie Kayvon Webster, who is playing with a cast on his surgically repaired right thumb, has been targeted at times by opposing quarterbacks, he hasn’t had a lost season as some have framed it. He has upper-tier speed, usually plays with good technique with his hands, and has battled snap-after-snap despite the attention he’s gotten when he’s found himself in man-to-man coverage.

If the Broncos mix--and-match on the outside, they can put the help there, because Bailey can play inside on his own. It has been a quality move for him and the defense. And with the Patriots using their top receiver, Julian Edelman, in the slot about 45 percent of the time this season, it would put Bailey in position to square off with Edelman on those premium snaps.

As you would expect from a player with his anticipation and intellect, Bailey has played well in the slot. And there is more than one defensive coordinator in the league who would argue, because of the structure of passing attacks in the league and the variety of players who line up in the slot in terms of speed and power, that the slot corner is one of the most important players on the field.

There are some scouts, as well, who believe it might be the most difficult coverage player to find. Because things happen so quickly inside -- the time between snap to throw -- it take players with quick minds, who understand offensive concepts, and quick feet who are also strong enough to put up with, and handle, all of the contact on the inside.

In their 17 games thus far, Sunday’s included, the Broncos have held opponents to fewer than 300 yards on offense in four games. Bailey has played out of the slot in three of those games. To play Bailey as a nickel cornerback, the Broncos can also keep a pitch count of sorts on a player they need and who has played in just six games this season, Sunday’s included, because of a left foot injury.

Though the Broncos have plenty of folks with plenty of years on their football resumes to make the call, from here it looks like the one to make is to have Bailey keep doing what's he's doing, because it's been good for everybody and the Broncos don't have anybody else who can do that job like he can.
DENVER -- Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will have an MRI exam Monday morning on his injured knee and ankle, and privately some team officials are not optimistic about what they will hear from the medical staff.

Both injuries will be examined, but there was more concern late Sunday night about his knee. Harris Jr. left Sunday’s 24-17 victory against the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter and did not return.

The Broncos led 17-0 when Harris Jr. departed and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers targeted Harris Jr.’s replacement -- Quentin Jammer -- often down the stretch as San Diego scored all 17 of its points in the fourth quarter.

“I have to be better,’’ Jammer said following the game. “There were some technique things I need to clean up.’’

Harris Jr. has been the Broncos' most consistent defensive back and because of his versatility he plays in all of the team’s packages. Harris Jr. played 1,042 snaps on defense in the regular season, the most of any Broncos player on that side of the ball. He was one of just two players -- linebacker Danny Trevathan was the other -- to even top 900 snaps in the regular season.

The Broncos will have to adjust plenty of things against the New England Patriots with Harris Jr. not expected to be available. The Broncos could leave Jammer in the base defense and keep Champ Bailey in the slot as the nickel cornerback.

They could move Bailey back outside if they think he’s ready after three games since his return to the lineup from a left foot injury that kept him out of 11 games this season. And the Broncos could simply use rookie Kayvon Webster, who is playing with a cast on his surgically-repaired right thumb, more as well.

Quick Take: Patriots at Broncos

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
DENVER -- Three things to know about the Denver Broncos' matchup against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. ET Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

1. Once more with feeling: Commence hyping, but it's Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady again, with a Super Bowl trip on the line. And no matter how much Manning tries to deflect in the coming days -- and he will try with all of his conversation-directing might -- most folks will want to make Sunday's affair another high-profile chapter in the Manning-Brady saga that has played out over the course of two Hall-of-Fame careers. It will be the 15th time the two have faced each other and the fifth time in the postseason. And while Brady has a decided advantage -- 10-4 -- they are 1-1 against each other in previous AFC Championship Games. It will also be a meeting of the only two quarterbacks in league history to have thrown at least 50 touchdown passes in a season.

2. Don't sleep on the ground (attacks): While the pregame hoopla will center on the two quarterbacks, the two offenses' running games may really decide the issue. The Patriots, especially over the past month of the regular season, have shown their run-game chops and they simply overwhelmed the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round Saturday night. The Broncos then pounded out 133 yards against the Chargers on Sunday. Denver rushed for 280 yards against New England in Foxborough, Mass., in the Patriots' 34-31 Nov. 24 overtime win. Whichever defense holds up against that burly approach just may earn a Super Bowl trip.

3. Cover up: When Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. left Sunday's game early in the second half with knee and ankle injuries, what had been a dominant defensive performance for the Broncos got a little dicier down the stretch. Harris is their do-it-all guy in coverage and plays in all of the team's defensive packages. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers went after Harris's replacement -- Quentin Jammer -- plenty after the change, and had success. The Broncos will have to consider what they do if Harris does not play against the Patriots. They could stick with Jammer or try rookie Kayvon Webster on the outside against Brady. Or they could move Champ Bailey back outside. Bailey has played in the nickel, as the slot cornerback, since his return to the lineup in mid-December.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are always plans. Draft plans. Free agency plans. What-if plans.

And the Denver Broncos have certainly made their share of plans over the last year in an attempt to fill out a roster good enough to, as executive vice president of football operations John Elway routinely puts it, "win a world championship."

But sometimes things don't go according to plan. Somebody gets hurt, somebody gets suspended -- or in the case of linebacker Von Miller, both -- or somebody simply doesn't play as well as expected.

So that takes a course change here and there. With the Broncos set to open their postseason play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, here's a look at how some of their just-break-glass signings have gone so far and where those players figure to fit in the postseason.

DE Shaun Phillips: In the wake of the fax fiasco that resulted in Elvis Dumervil's release by the Broncos last March, the team felt Dwight Freeney and John Abraham had priced themselves out of the team's budget. So during the draft weekend the Broncos signed Phillips to a 1-year, $1 million deal, with incentives for sack totals that start at eight. Phillips played 770 snaps in the regular season (68.2 percent overall) and led the team in sacks with 10 but has had just one over last six games.

CB Quentin Jammer: Jammer was originally signed May 30 and the Broncos intended to move him to safety to play him in some of their coverage packages. But that didn't go well and Jammer looked far more comfortable at cornerback, so the Broncos left him there. He's been a situational player, with 217 snaps (19.2 percent of the defensive plays). His playing time in the postseason could depend on how much the Broncos play Kayvon Webster with a cast on his surgically-repaired right thumb. If Webster is put back in the rotation, Jammer's potential playing time gets reduced.

LB Paris Lenon: The Broncos signed him Aug.20 when Stewart Bradley went to injured reserve. After bringing him in for a workout, the Broncos quickly saw the 36-year-old had kept himself in condition and they signed him with the hope that he could provide depth. But over the course of the season and as the Broncos have searched for answers on defense, he has been moved into the base defense at middle linebacker -- replacing a team captain in that role in Wesley Woodyard -- and has played at least 23 plays in each of the last four games. The Broncos need a big postseason from him because offenses figure to pound away at times against the Broncos to keep the ball out of the Peyton Manning's hands.

S Michael Huff: The Broncos signed the former first-round pick Nov. 19 to a 1-year, $840,000 deal ($49,412 each week on roster in regular season). He's played 40 snaps on defense, all in the last two games as defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has begun to use him in some of the specialty packages, often lining him up at what is essentially a weak-side linebacker spot or using Huff along the line of scrimmage in the pass rush. With the number of open formations with three and four wide receivers the Broncos would figure to see in a multi-game postseason run, he figures to see more of those kinds of snaps.

DT Sione Fua: Signed a two-year deal with the Broncos after he had cleared waivers in November -- no signing bonus with $555,000 base salary this year, $645,000 in 2014 so it is essentially a one-year deal if the Broncos want to move on after the season. The Broncos like Fua's potential and he's played sparingly thus far -- 12 snaps overall with 10 of those coming against the Titans. Figures to have a difficult time getting in the rotation in the postseason unless there is an injury or the Broncos face a run-heavy offense.

DE Jeremy Mincey: The Broncos signed him Dec. 17 to help bolster things at end with the uncertainty around Derek Wolfe's return to the lineup -- Wolfe has practiced just twice since suffering what the team has called "seizure-like symptoms" on Nov. 29. Mincey, who played for Del Rio in Jacksonville, was moved into the lineup quickly, having played 60 snaps combined in the two games since he was signed. He figures to be in the mix in the postseason and will play in the base defense as well as some situational work.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

December, 1, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 35-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: With another remember-when day from Peyton Manning, the Broncos put themselves squarely on the inside lane for the AFC West title, with a one-game lead and a season sweep of the Chiefs. The Broncos sit at 10-2 and don’t play a team with a winning record the rest of the way (Tennessee, San Diego, Houston and Oakland).

Stock watch: It has been a bumpy ride at times for running back Montee Ball, including a fumble deep in Broncos territory in the third quarter against New England last weekend that helped fuel the Patriots' comeback and was his third lost fumble of the season. But against the Chiefs, with Knowshon Moreno dealing with a bone bruise in his right ankle, Ball got quality snaps at important times. And his 45-yard run to open the Broncos’ drive with five minutes left in the third quarter was perhaps his biggest jaunt of the season.

A measured return: Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey played for the first time since he left the Week 7 loss in Indianapolis after aggravating a left foot injury. He briefly left Sunday’s game after being hit in the midsection on a tackle, then played largely in the nickel. Kayvon Webster and Chris Harris played much of the time as the corners in the base defense, and in the second half there were times when Harris, Webster and Quentin Jammer played as the three cornerbacks in the nickel. They want Bailey available for the long haul, and had said they may work him into things on a situational basis.

A full Decker: The Broncos came into the game with three players -- Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker -- with at least nine touchdown receptions. But Eric Decker had not really joined the scoring fun, with three touchdowns in the Broncos’ first 11 games -- he had just one catch for 5 yards in the loss in New England. Then Decker manhandled the Chiefs' man coverage, especially rookie Marcus Cooper, and finished with 174 yards and four touchdown catches.

What’s next: The Broncos are fairly battered, with a long list of aching players coming in and kick/punt returner Trindon Holliday having left Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury. They will now have two games in a five-day span, facing Tennessee next Sunday and San Diego on the following Thursday. It’s an important late-season stretch for a team with more than its share of guys in the trainer's room.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 12

November, 25, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos’ 34-31 overtime loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaDenver's Knowshon Moreno has been the most reliable running back for the Broncos -- but it's time for someone else to help shoulder the load.
Working overtime: Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno tore an ACL in 2011 and had another knee procedure this past offseason, and the Broncos have consistently talked about watching his workload. But then their other running backs kept fumbling the ball -- both C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball lost the handle against the Patriots on Sunday night -- so Moreno has been left as Mr. Reliable or the one, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said, who has "that trust factor." And after 37 carries as the piece of the team’s offense that could function in the cold Sunday night, Moreno left Gillette Stadium in a walking boot on his right leg. With his 27 carries the week before against the Chiefs, Moreno’s 64 carries in the past two games are more than he had in the previous four games combined before the win over Kansas City. Somebody else in that running backs meeting room must now step forward.

Thinning out: The Broncos kept 11 defensive backs on the roster when they exited the preseason, and at the time it looked like a healthy surplus. But then Champ Bailey aggravated his left foot injury in Indianapolis, and he has played in just two games this season. Then Rahim Moore had surgery on his lower left leg, and on Sunday, two other defensive backs left the game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a freakish shoulder injury trying to make a diving catch on a Hail Mary play to end the first half Sunday night, and Omar Bolden suffered a concussion in the second half. It means Quentin Jammer will have to play more on the outside and rookie Kayvon Webster is going to act and play like a starter.

Cold as ice: The Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning continue to say the cold isn’t an issue on offense, that Manning practices in it all the time. But all the rest of the world has to go on is the past two games the team has played in below-freezing temperatures. Against the Ravens in the playoff loss in January when kickoff temperature was 13 degrees (and wind chill was 2 degrees), Manning was 28-of-43 with two interceptions and didn’t push the ball down the field. Sunday night, with a kickoff temperature of 22 degrees (and a 22 mph wind made the wind chill 6 degrees), Manning was 19-of-36 for 150 yards and an interception. For many, the Broncos’ cold-weather postseason prospects will continue to be a question mark until they all show, including Manning, that it isn’t.

It’s time: Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio has said recently he liked rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams’ progress this season, that Williams was ready for far more in the defense. He said that even as Williams was a game-day inactive three times this season, twice in the past four games. Now Williams will have to lift his game with Kevin Vickerson’s right hip injury. Williams will have to play more and be an early-down force, especially in run defense, if the Broncos are to get some momentum going defensively down the stretch.

Broncos careful to avoid a bad mix

November, 19, 2013
Peyton ManningWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThe Broncos have been deliberate when adding veteran free agents like Peyton Manning.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On his way through 15 NFL seasons that have included 12 Pro Bowl selections, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey has seen players come and seen players go.

He’s seen good signings and some not so good, he's seen teams with guys all rowing in the same direction, and teams with guys who won't even put the oar in the water. And he’s seen it takes just one bad veteran apple to push the whole tree down.

Or as Bailey put it: “One thing you don’t want to do is put a bad vet in your locker room."

It comes to light as the Broncos, now 9-1, have had some veteran players do what they’ve been asked to do, whether it was what they expected or not, and not made waves. Players who have had bigger roles for the team or in other places, with different job descriptions now.

“The locker room, the team spirit, it’s all connected in how you relate to each other," Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said. “If you’ve got a guy who’s sour, that’s always complaining about something, his own situation, whatever it may be, it sucks the life out of the group."

Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway has always said one of his first goals as the team’s top football decision-maker was to “get the locker room the way it needed to be," and the best way to do it is building a foundation of homegrown players by “stacking those draft classes." But Elway also wants free agency to be a tool to fill in around the edges, or in the case of signing quarterback Peyton Manning, as the ultimate dip into the annual veteran talent grab.

“But you always want to make sure, whether it's one-year deal or somebody like Peyton, that it’s the right guy, that he’s going to be what we want for the Denver Broncos," Elway said.

The Broncos signed Quentin Jammer, a 12-year veteran, on May 30 in hopes he could make a move to safety and be a physical player who could play in coverage deep down the middle of the field. But once he arrived and practiced with the team, Del Rio said the thought was Jammer simply played better at cornerback, but the Broncos also had some depth there.

As a result Jammer played just one snap in the first seven games of the season combined.

“But there aren’t many guys like him," Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He just gets to work, and when we needed him he was ready. Guys like that, who have done as much as he has, they make you go. We all can see how to go work from guys like him and Champ."

With some injuries and Jammer’s play through the week in practice, he has since played 19 snaps on defense against the Redskins, 33 against the Chargers, including two snaps to open the game when Rodgers-Cromartie told Jammer to take his spot to make the start against Jammer’s former team. And Jammer had 20 plays on defense in Sunday night’s win against the Chiefs.

“I think that’s another great example of a guy, when you talk about a proud veteran that has played at a high level for a number of years in the league, and for him to remain a positive teammate -- I think that’s why you saw that kind of tribute start that he got (against the Chargers), because the group recognizes this is a guy that has a lot of skins on the wall, and this guy has played a lot of good football," Del Rio said. “ ... For a guy -- a veteran guy with all his experience, all his accomplishments -- he’s accepted his role and been a great teammate. It’s such a positive thing to have for your football team."

Tight end Jacob Tamme played 46 percent of the Broncos' snaps on offense in 2012 on the way to 52 receptions. This season, with Julius Thomas having been the primary receiver at the position (Thomas already has 10 touchdown catches this season), Tamme has played just 52 snaps on offense over the first 10 games, and has three catches.

But Tamme is the team leader in special teams tackles, has played on 63 percent of the plays on special teams, and came within an eyelash of blocking a punt against the Chiefs on Sunday.

Safety Mike Adams, a 10-year veteran, started 16 games last season, but lost his starting job in training camp to Duke Ihenacho. Adams has since played in some of the defense’s specialty packages to go with one start this season when Ihenacho was injured. Adams will likely be looked to again with free safety Rahim Moore having had surgery on his lower right leg Monday morning.

“But a guy like Mike, he knows what he has to do and he’s always ready," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “We have a lot of good guys in our room who just want to win. We all want to play for sure, but we all want to win, and I think everybody does what they have to do to make that happen."

Then there’s Shaun Phillips, another 10-year veteran, a player the Broncos signed to a one-year deal during the draft weekend this past April. Some personnel executives said before Phillips signed in Denver they believed he could still have an impact in a defense if he went to a successful team with a strong locker room after his frustration in the Chargers’ failure to make the playoffs in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Phillips currently leads the Broncos in sacks with nine, and has enabled the Broncos to overcome Von Miller's six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy to open the season.

“From some of the things that we determine in evaluating the tape and then working with him and getting him here, he’s been a pleasant surprise," Del Rio said. “I mean, he’s been a little better than we’d hoped in terms of his impact and his leadership. Smart, tough guy. He’s a great communicator ... Yeah, very happy with him."

But if things don’t go nearly as well, the solution is fairly simple to say, but often difficult to perform in these salary-cap times. But Del Rio said there is only one real repair to make for a signing gone bad.

“I’ve seen those guys disappear, which is the best thing a team can do," Del Rio said. “It’s abracadabra time. They disappear. That’s what typically happens, if it’s disruptive, you would hope a team, at least a team that wants to be successful, would relieve that situation, because you have to relieve it to cure it."

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 11

November, 18, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – An examination for four hot issues from the Denver Broncos27-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeQuentin Jammer
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesQuentin Jammer's playing time has been on the rise, and on Sunday night he recovered a fumble.
Jammer jammin’: In the first seven games of this season, Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer played all of one play on defense -- one snap against the Eagles in Week 4. But interim coach/defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has said he will try to find a place for those he believes can contribute on game day, and the Broncos like the veteran Jammer’s savvy and physical play. Jammer was on the field for 19 plays against the Redskins in Week 8 and 33 plays against the Chargers last week, and he was in a regular rotation Sunday night, often appearing in the Broncos’ big nickel look when they went with five defensive backs.

Decker on the spot: With Wes Welker having suffered a concussion Sunday night, Eric Decker might need to show a little more versatility. Welker has worked almost exclusively out of the slot this season, save for an occasional snap when he has lined up out wide or in the backfield, and Decker would have to fill that role if Welker misses some time. It means Decker, who has struggled at times with drops, is going to have to be reliable in the high-traffic areas in the middle of the field. The Broncos will still want to run their three-wide-receiver set plenty, and that means Decker has to be up to the task on the inside and Andre Caldwell will have to produce in an outside spot.

Money well spent: After the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil in free agency following the fax disaster, there was at least some concern in the organization over whether they would be able to fill the gap. But a one-year, $1 million deal with Shaun Phillips signed during the weekend of the NFL draft has worked out quite nicely for all involved. Phillips leads the team with nine sacks after he recorded 1.5 Sunday night (along with 10 tackles). He has already earned a $400,000 bonus for getting eight sacks, and he has another waiting if he reaches 10.

Lucky six: When the Broncos selected linebacker Danny Trevathan in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, they hoped they would have a player who could find a role in the team’s speed-first defense. Trevathan, who forced a game-changing fumble in the first quarter Sunday, now leads the Broncos in tackles (81) and is tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) and forced fumbles (two). That’s the kind of late-round value that draft-built playoff teams routinely enjoy, and the kind the Broncos will need to stay in the postseason hunt as they move forward under the current regime.



Thursday, 11/20
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