Broncos Update Insider - 11/1

It's going to be a long road back for the Broncos, and that isn't a reference to the return trip from London.

Entering the bye at 2-6, the franchise has a litany of issues that won't be easily solved with a few upcoming practice days off to refresh.

"It might be a longer list than we would have liked at this point, but I think that looking at yourself, looking at our team, (it's) seeing what we can improve the quickest, because we're halfway through the season," coach Josh McDaniels said.

The No. 1 problems exist in the trenches on both sides of the ball and may take more than just time and effort to repair.

Denver wants to make Knowshon Moreno a more significant part of the offense, but whether it's overall ineffectiveness, the player's availability issues or game situations affecting the pass-run mix, it still hasn't happened -- and may not heading forward.

The Broncos are going through the growing pains of having two rookie starters on the offensive line. The team has inexplicably benched right tackle Ryan Harris, who previously had been one of their best players. And Ryan Clady's comeback from knee problems has not resulted in him returning in All-Pro form.

Everyone knew that Elvis Dumervil's season-ending injury would have an effect on the Broncos' ability to create pressure -- and it has. But compound that loss by taking away Robert Ayers, who was becoming one of the team's best edge defenders, and shorter absences by safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Andre Goodman, and the Broncos have been spread too thin on a roster that needs more defensive playmakers, not fewer.

Denver also isn't getting enough out of a defensive front that added Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams in free agency. The loss to San Francisco was telling in that regard, with Frank Gore pounding the middle and the 49ers working the edge deftly to pile up 143 rushing yards.

Quarterback Kyle Orton continues to put up yardage numbers, and Brandon Lloyd has come out of nowhere for a Pro Bowl-type season, but in many ways those performances have been hollow, given the offense's struggles in the red zone and inability to score and, more recently, move the chains on third down.

Denver just can't eat clock and methodically grind out yards. The Broncos are more dependent on the big play, which is an M.O. that's difficult to count upon consistently.

The cold, hard fact is this: Denver is 4-14 since a 6-0 start to McDaniels' tenure as coach last season.

It figures to get worse before it gets better.

NOTES, QUOTES

LINEUP WATCH: It will be interesting to see how Denver approaches its nickel cornerback situation after the bye. Perrish Cox has been the starter when an injury has hit the first team, but with Andre Goodman and Champ Bailey both healthy for the first time together in more than a month, Cox missed the London trip with a concussion. Cox could supplant current nickel back Nate Jones for the Nov. 14 home game against Kansas City.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13-19: Denver's record during the final eight games of the season, dating back to 2006. Normally a fast starting team, Denver's current 2-6 start is the franchise's worst since 1999.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--First-year P Britton Colquitt had been solid through the first seven games, with a 46.5-yard gross average and a 38.7-yard net. But Colquitt had a poor game against San Francisco, averaging just 33.7 yards (31.6 net) on seven attempts, including punts covering 21, 22 and 32 yards.

--RB Knowshon Moreno was more involved in the passing game, as coach Josh McDaniels had vowed leading up to San Francisco. He had four catches for 19 yards after having eight receptions through the first seven games. Moreno's three-down status has relegated Laurence Maroney entirely to the bench, with Correll Buckhalter the chief reserve.

--WR Brandon Lloyd now has 23 catches of 20-plus yards, including seven of 40 or more yards. Lloyd already has set a career single-season high of 878 yards through eight games. He's one of just seven players to average over 20 yards with over 800 yards receiving through a season's first eight contests.

--TE Richard Quinn made his first career start in the San Francisco game as Denver opened in a three-tight end formation.

--QB Tim Tebow scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter against the 49ers. It was his second scoring run this season, leaving him one shy of Marlin Briscoe's 1968 team record for a rookie quarterback.

--QB Kyle Orton threw for 369 yards against San Francisco, his fifth 300-yard passing performance this season. Orton had just three such games during his previous five NFL seasons.

--DE Ryan McBean moved back into the starting lineup with Kevin Vickerson (groin) not making the trip. McBean lost the position in Week 4. McBean finished with two tackles.



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