But with Denver slipping to an opponent's average drive start of nearly the 30-yard line through the season's first month, McDaniels may be ready to start putting some starting defensive players into the mix to help reverse the momentum. Champ Bailey already was added to the unit after Mariani's return, which may be some foreshadowing for this week. ILB Mario Haggan has been a key member of the coverage units in the past and is one possibility.
--RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) didn't practice one day after going through a limited workout Thursday. It's highly unlikely Moreno plays Sunday, which would represent his third straight missed game. Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter should continue to share the workload in his absence.
--RB Andre Brown would seem a logical candidate if the Broncos would like to possibly shake up the backfield, but McDaniels indicated that Brown still is going through the learning process after spending the last year-plus with the Giants. The transition was quicker for Laurence Maroney since the ex-New England back played under Josh McDaniels with the Patriots. Brown has gotten some first-team work, however, in practices.
--CB Andre Goodman (thigh) practiced a second straight day and appears on track to start Sunday after missing two games. If he can't go, Perrish Cox will take his place.
--FB Spencer Larsen (ankle) won't play for the second straight game. Denver will use TE Dan Gronkowski and possibly OG Russ Hochstein in lead-blocking situations.
--NT Jamal Williams continues to get Thursday practices off as a means to try and keep his body fresh for the entire season. Despite only eight tackles, he's been one of the most valuable pieces on Denver's defenses for his ability to disrupt offensive blocking schemes against double-team attention.
The Broncos will work hard on improving the rush offense but Denver hasn't shown the physicality up front to be able to push the pile and when there have been seams the running backs have been slow to react or missed holes entirely. That will once again put the onus on Orton, who isn't confused easily in zone coverages and has the receivers that can create mismatches on the outside. Defensively, the Broncos could have a game plan similar to the one that worked against the Titans. Crash the outside linebackers inside and force Ray Rice to stay between the tackles, then wrap him up. Champ Bailey worked at RCB in order to align against Reggie Wayne in the Indianapolis game and the way Anquan Boldin has been playing, it wouldn't be surprising to see Bailey shadow him Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Broncos OL vs. Ravens pass rush. The tone in Denver's blowout defeat last season was set from the very first offensive snap, when linebacker Jarrett Johnson came off the edge unblocked and decleated Orton. Should the Broncos' difficulties running the ball continue -- and there are few signs things will improve vs. Baltimore, despite a surprising 116.8-yard weekly yield by the Ravens, it will be up to Orton to operate from the pocket and attack the Ravens' suspect secondary -- provided he has the time. Orton dropped back 56 times against Tennessee and was sacked six times, the most Denver's allowed since 2002. The Broncos can expect another aggressive blitz package from the Ravens and will need their backs to clean up what Denver's line can't.
Ravens screen game with RB Ray Rice vs. Denver OLBs Jason Hunter and Robert Ayers. Denver has added bulk to the edge, with the two starting linebackers averaging 273 pounds. Combined with a disciplined approach, Denver has kept running backs like Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew from being able to bounce plays to the outside and funneled the plays to the middle for tackles. Seeing this, Baltimore could try an alternate approach -- challenging the mobility of those linebackers in space by dumping the ball off the Rice with momentum already headed their way. Rice has battled a knee problem and with an improved WR corps, his involvement in the passing game has been more limited -- 11 catches for 74 yards. But he does own six of Baltimore's 11 best receiving days by a running back -- including a 10-catch effort last October at Minnesota.
INJURY IMPACT: CB Champ Bailey missed Wednesday's practice due to what was officially reported as a 'non-injury.' Bailey was in the locker room during the media period and there's nothing to indicate he won't be on hand Sunday.
--LB Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice after being deactivated Sunday. He's considered day-to-day.
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