Broncos Update Insider - 10/16

An up-close view of two of the era's best cover cornerbacks playing on the same field may not materialize Sunday.

Darrelle Revis of the Jets has been battling lingering hamstring issues, and with a bye week looming, New York may choose the cautious route.

Too bad, too, since Champ Bailey wouldn't have minded getting an in-person glance at the player many feel has supplanted him as the NFL's top cornerback.

It's a mantle Bailey has supposedly given up before, to Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, maybe even Nate Clements when he got his big contract.

Bailey just keeps on keeping on. He may not be getting the same number of takeaways he had in his incredible 2005 season, when he was runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 10 interceptions.

But he also hasn't allowed a touchdown in two years. And matched one-on-one with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Anquan Boldin this year, Bailey has forced quarterbacks to choose other options in the passing game. The red-hot Boldin had one catch for eight yards last week with Bailey shadowing him.

Bailey noted Revis is among the players at his position that he pays attention to most, along with the Jets' Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Cardinals. Kansas City's Brandon Flowers and San Diego's Quentin Jammer have been part of others' conversations on the matter.

"I'm a fan of the game so I listen to a lot of people, but nothing bothers me," Bailey said about pundits dropping him as the league's best defensive back. "Obviously when everything's said and done, you still have to go and play. I laugh at a lot of it. It's funny. People want to talk about something. And (Revis) is great. He's playing just as good or better than anybody the last couple years -- but he's not doing anything right now, is he?"

Revis off the field did get what he wanted in the form of a lucrative contract extension.

The biggest storyline over the next several months in Denver figures to be whether Bailey gets the deal he's been seeking, as he plays out the final year of his contract.

Talks between the team last week were suddenly cut off, casting Bailey's future in doubt.

"I thought we found a way to make it work," Bailey said at the time. "My thing is, my optimism is slowly fading away about staying here."

--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."

SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 16-14-1. Denver has held New York to just 17 points in their last two meetings. The Jets are 7-9 in Denver. The most famous meeting was a 23-10 Denver victory at old Mile High Stadium on Jan. 17, 1999 in the AFC Championship Game.

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

--RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) returned to practice for the first time since Oct. 6. Before working out, Moreno said he had tested the leg but hadn't gone full-go yet, so it wasn't possible to yet gauge his possible availability.

--S Kyle McCarthy and LBs Diyral Briggs and Kevin Alexander all are possible activations off the practice squad for Sunday's game, not only because of issues defensively but due to injuries to core special-teams players.

--RT Zane Beadles has been rotating with the starting group with usual No. 1 Ryan Harris, as Denver continues to try and find the right offensive line combination. Stanley Daniels and Russ Hochstein also have been sharing snaps at left guard.

--DE Kevin Vickerson was evaluated as a defensive tackle before Denver acquired him off waivers, projecting his height, arm length and size to a 3-4 defensive end. Now a starter, Vickerson was credited by coach Josh McDaniels for his ability to adjust from a slashing, one-gap system with which the player had become accustomed, to Denver's two-gap approach.

--CB Nate Jones will play a key role Sunday, whether he remains at nickel cornerback or plays some safety, too. The fact he did both during preseason games shouldn't be a shock to the system. "It can be mentally taxing," he said of his dual responsibilities. "But every week I go into a game, study what I got and I keep the left eye on one and the right eye on the other."





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