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How Will The Denver Broncos New Injuries Affect Them Down The Stretch?

The Broncos lost one key offensive player for the season, while their quarterback is in a walking boot. Not good heading down the stretch.

If losing to Kansas City on Sunday night and getting knocked out of the playoff picture for the time being wasn’t bad enough, news broke Wednesday that starting quarterback Trevor Siemian would be day-to-day with a foot sprain.

Joining Siemian in the treatment room is fullback Andy Janovich, as the rookie suffered an ankle injury on Denver's first offensive play of the game. After surgery on Tuesday, the team will be forced to move him to the injured reserve list, thus ending his season.

For a team that is already reeling a bit from such a dramatic loss to a division rival, in addition to facing a difficult remaining schedule, this news is disheartening to say the least. The obvious replacement in the event that Siemian can’t make a go of it on Sunday will be rookie Paxton Lynch. Lynch showed a glimpse of his considerable upside, coming on in relief of an injured Siemian during a 27-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early in the season. However, he would also show how much of a project he is at the same time, with an uneven performance in a home loss to the Atlanta Falcons the following week.

Losing Siemian for any amount of time may be the event that puts the nail in Denver’s postseason hopes. It could also be the moment Lynch needs to prove why the team moved up to nab him in the first round of the draft, too.

If Gary Kubiak is willing to amend his philosophy and coach to his players' strengths, instead of trying to pigeon hole them into roles they may or may not be cut out for, the offense can still look like the one that moved the ball well in the second half against the Chiefs. Coach Kubiak made offensive adjustments for Peyton Manning last season when it was apparent to anyone watching that having a quarterback like the 5-time MVP under center wasn’t going to work.

From his play in Tampa, Lynch works best as a thrower and not a passer. When the team ran no-huddle and left Lynch in the shotgun, it simplified what he needed to diagnose pre-snap and allowed him get the most out of his physical talents. This let him push the ball down the field and also kept the formations simpler, which in turn makes it harder to counter a run or a pass from a defensive standpoint.

This is something Denver did well in the second half of the game in Tampa. In equal measure, if Lynch is asked to line up under center, make his reads in his drop backs and find his man from there, Kubiak is setting him up to fail.

Kubiak got much of the credit from going away from what he’s comfortable with as far as play-calling in order to score points and move the ball consistently with Manning at the helm but it remains to be seen if this is a luxury he is going to afford Lynch if he has to take over for Siemian for any length of time. It didn’t look like that was case, if the game against Atlanta was the template for how they would handle Lynch going forward.

Andy Janovich’s injury is another matter altogether. The youngster has shown in brief moments that he is a capable runner if called upon. He's also shown soft hands in the passing game, while being a key component on the special teams coverage units.

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Most importantly though, he has been an effective lead blocker who allows the Denver coaching staff to use more of the playbook, which is something they felt they couldn’t do last season.

How does the Denver offense look without the services of Janovich for the rest of the year? The run game figures to be hit the hardest, as they lose someone who was able to convert crucial short-yardage plays, and up until his injury, looked to be taking on a bigger role in the offense.

With no other true fullback on the roster, it remains to be seen if they will use some type of platoon comprised of Virgil Green, Juwan Thompson or A.J. Derby in the short term, or whether they look into the bare free-agent market for someone who can consume the playbook in a short enough amount of time to help on the field. Either way, losing Janovich is a blow for an offense that looked like it was starting to get some issues figured out.

Our own Doc Bear has mentioned that the Broncos, through the draft and the personnel savvy of John Elway and Matt Russell, boast “elite depth” at many spots on the field. Its gut-wrenching to possibly lose a player like Siemian, who put together his best game as a pro, teasing us with the kind of potential many within the team have talked about when asked about the development of the young signal-caller.

In addition to another promising player in Janovich, who fills a few different roles on the team, these injuries will be a test to that elite depth.

Paxton Lynch, and whomever the team tabs to replace Janovich, face a big task ahead of them as they will be counted on to help the defending Champs scratch and claw their way back into the postseason. Whether they are ready for it or not, will be answered Sunday morning in Jacksonville. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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