Broncos Update Insider - 10-14

The timing seemingly couldn't be worse for the New York Jets' No. 1-ranked rush offense to pay Denver a visit.

Denver in Baltimore just allowed 233 ground yards --161 in the second half -- and to add injuries to that insult, defensive stalwarts such as Robert Ayers, Brian Dawkins and Andre' Goodman already have been ruled out with injuries.

Two of them are amongst their best run defenders.

It could get ugly -- or not.

"I want to see a team that runs the ball that well," defensive end Justin Bannan countered. "It's a great way to bounce back and prove to yourself, 'Yeah, we can stop the run and we had a bad game.' What a great opportunity. I think it's just what we need."

The difference between the Titans win in which Chris Johnson was held to the second-lowest rushing total in 24 games and last Sunday, when Ray Rice cracked triple digits (133 yards, two touchdowns) was startling -- so much so that Denver dropped all the way to 25th in the NFL rankings.

Bannan pointed to issues with poor technique, gap positioning and tackling that affected Denver all day against Baltimore. But he sees the issues as correctable, even with the two-headed monster of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Green coming in, running behind one of the league's best offensive lines.

The biggest surprise from the New York side perhaps isn't the Jets ground success since it's their M.O., but the turn-back-the-block season by Tomlinson, a player with whom Denver's defense is extremely familiar.

"LT's proving to people that he was hurt and not full strength over the last couple years," linebacker Mario Haggan said. "He's showing people, 'You give up on me?' this is how it looks when you give up on somebody too early."

Tomlinson had 38 carries for 144 yards in the two San Diego-Denver games last season but didn't show the same burst out of cuts he'd flashed for years in building a Hall-of-Fame resume. But he's flashing those traits now.

"This guy's one of the best players in NFL history and he's still playing like it," coach Josh McDaniels said.

The question is how Denver physically will align to try and deal with the Jets' attack. Brian Dawkins had spent a large amount of time in the box to help with the run, and David Bruton may now inherit that role, but he's more limited in coverage.

The loss of Robert Ayers also will create a trickle-down effect. The Broncos could bring linebacker Kevin Alexander off the practice squad and insert him into Ayers' weak-side spot. He played well throughout camp and at 6-4, 265, brings the kind of presence needed to set the edge effectively. That would mean Mario Haggan could remain in his middle linebacker spot instead of shifting outside, which is another possibility.

"The guys we have are blue-collar guys. They come to work; they're going to play hard," defensive end Jason Hunter said. "The NFL is all about overcoming adversity and just being triumphant. I feel like the guys we have are going ... to look at this as having to respond, especially after what happened last week."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox is learning on the go, but mostly from the hitch-and-go and slant-and-go.

Forced into action as a starter with Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman both missing time this season, Cox has been aligned against receivers like Tennessee's Nate Washington, Indianapolis' Austin Collie and Baltimore's Derrick Mason.

All three have used their experience to set up Cox for double-moves that have beaten the Broncos' corner over the first five games. Cox may see repeated hitches that seem easy to cover, then boom, it's a setup.

"I've got to go watch more film, because there's a lot of veteran receivers out there," Cox said. "It's not talent. Because I think I have the talent. It's a lot of the smaller things that the vet receivers, the 10-plus year players know, as far as leverage wise, using their hands, those types of things. I have to settle down and watch more film on those guys because they've been around and know what's going on."

Against Baltimore, Cox was assessed a pass-interference call covering Mason in the end zone. The ball was underthrown but, upon further review, the receiver baited Cox, who had time to turn around but instead was lured into playing the receiver too physically without turning his head around.

It was an easy call for the official.

Another aspect Cox needs to improve while playing physical bump coverage is consistently maintaining his balance and not giving receivers the first step or position.

"I'm not going to say it's tougher, but it's a lot more complicated than I thought it was," Cox said of his travails to date. "There's a lot of things that I haven't seen."

No doubt, the Jets' Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery will take notice of Cox's every move, as well. Goodman's out again out this week and the rookie remains his likely replacement.

--Jamal Williams would be perfect for the cable show "Dirty Jobs."

For 13 NFL seasons, he's banged in the trenches with little fanfare, recognized for three Pro Bowls but having few statistics to measure his real impact.

"It can be frustrating at times, but as long as somebody on the defense makes the play, I'm happy," Williams said of his underappreciated role.

Williams, signed as a free agent last spring, has just 10 total tackles (eight solo) through five games. But he's one of the most significant players within Denver's 3-4 defensive scheme. He allows the inside linebackers to flow to the ball and make plays.

At age 34, Williams admits it isn't all brute strength and explosion playing inside anymore but partially smarts, too.

"There's not too many plays you haven't seen over the years, so you get to be that much quicker and faster to a play and expect what's coming," he said.

Even so, he's looked spry physically, partially because of sitting out most of the 2009 season with a triceps tear that allowed his entire body to heal. Denver's medical staff has been giving Williams days off each Thursday, too, to keep him fresh.

One thing Williams may never have suspected is seeing his old Chargers teammate, LaDainian Tomlinson, rushing his way, with both players wearing different colors, as the running back will this Sunday.

The move to New York seems to have rejuvenated Tomlinson, as trading places has buoyed Williams.

"It's been great," Williams said. "Some people talk about the altitude but I think it's helped my endurance, especially when we're traveling to a visiting team. And they've done a great job taking care of me."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Giveaways by the Jets this season, dating back to a lost fumble in Week 1. Denver had three interceptions and a fumble recovery in a Week 2 game vs. Seattle but has combined to have just two more takeaways in the other four games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's got to be a rainbow out there Sunday; a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for us." -- Mario Haggan, after learning five players already had been ruled out against the Jets.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Even with the addition of Santonio Holmes to New York's receiving group, tight end Dustin Keller continues to be one of Mark Sanchez's top targets. The two combined for five TDs during one three-game stretch spanning September and October.

On paper, this appears to be an area the Jets can exploit most against Denver's battered defense.

Dawkins was used as a player who could give a physical jam at the line on opposing tight ends and, while his speed isn't what it once was, his instincts for upcoming routes added a half-step in coverage.

Darcel McBath is perhaps Denver's best coverage safety, and he's sidelined with an ankle injury.

In other instances, Denver might put 6-0, 222-pound ILB Wesley Woodyard on a top-tier tight end, given his speed and athleticism. Yet he's also gone with a hamstring problem.

So what is option No. 4?

Free safety Renaldo Hill has not demonstrated consistent man-coverage abilities. He's best suited to patrolling the middle of the field in safety-high coverages.

Nickel corner/safety Nate Jones doesn't have the size to consistently match Keller's 6-2, 250-pound frame.

That leaves, by default, David Bruton, a 6-2, 211-pound second-year player out of Notre Dame. He has some experience, starting once last season and is well-versed in Denver's scheme.

PLAYER NOTES

--OG Russ Hochstein is in line for his second straight start at left guard, but coach Josh McDaniels only gave a lukewarm endorsement of the player's Ravens' start as "all right." Denver could make additional tweaks along the line Sunday.

--WR Eddie Royal ranks second in the NFL at his position with 199 yards after the catch. Austin Collie (202) leads.

--CB Perrish Cox has seven passes defensed, trailing only the Jets' Antonio Cromartie and Baltimore's Fabian Washington (eight).

--OLB Jarvis Moss is "going to be asked to do some different things this week." Moss has had some trouble holding the edge previously, so his contribution could come in pass-rush packages, where Robert Ayers' absence will be felt.

--RB Andre Brown carried the ball for the first time Sunday (two carries, one yard) but was a no-show at Wednesday's practice due to an illness.





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