Broncos Update Inside Slant - October 23

The Ravens know it and expect it. The Broncos will try to run the ball with Clinton Portis, giving him 25-30 carries. Read more about the game plan for the Ravens, key matchups, and personnel status in this edition of Broncos Update Inside Slant.

============== DENVER BRONCOS ============== INSIDE SLANT Six weeks ago, Danny Kanell was in south Florida, working out with his old high school team. Now Kanell is back in the spotlight, asked to carry the load with Denver's top two quarterbacks out.

Though he fared well in emergency duty against Minnesota, the Ravens defense figures to pose a tougher challenge. Plus, Kanell will have a week to think about everything, not two minutes. The big question is whether he can play as loose and carefree as he did last week.

"The landscape has changed dramatically in the last few days," said former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, who broadcast the Vikings game.

"Now we're all looking at him, all talking about him, and at practice all week he'll be getting drilled, 'Danny do this, Danny do that.' ... Not that you think about making mistakes, but you do guard against them and it inhibits how you play."

Kanell has a distinct advantage over other third-stringers suddenly thrust into a starting role. He's been there before, having started 22 games from 1997 to 2000 while with the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.

"In some ways I feel like a rookie again. But in other ways I've been in this situation and I know I can handle it," said Kanell.

While the Broncos have confidence in Kanell, there are more questions about his backup. Jarious Jackson, who Kanell beat out for the No. 3 job in training camp, re-signed Wednesday. In his four years as an understudy he has been erratic at best.

If the Broncos are to win they'll have to get running back Clinton Portis going.

"I'm promising and guessing at the same time that Clinton Portis is going to touch the ball at least 25-30 times this week just because of the quarterback situation," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. "And I'm sure they'll try to keep the game plan basic."

Tight end Shannon Sharpe said the key is the first five or ten minutes of the game.

"We can't fall behind because this defense thrives on that," Sharpe said.

SERIES HISTORY: 4th meeting. Ravens hold 2-1 advantage, and also won the only playoff game, beating the Broncos 21-3 in 2000 on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES --Last year Ray Lewis took offense to comments made by Broncos running back Clinton Portis.

Portis said "ain't nothing spectacular" when asked about going against Lewis, a fellow University of Miami alum. But Portis wasn't disrespecting Lewis. He simply was saying the situation wasn't nothing spectacular, as in it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what Lewis brings to the table.

Of course Baltimore head coach Brian Billick didn't care how Portis meant it. He made sure Lewis saw the words, and was incensed. The ploy worked as Lewis came out fired up, and stoked the entire Ravens team. On Wednesday, Portis was approached by reporters, and showed that his lips are zipped.

"I don't think Clinton will be saying what he said last year anymore," Lewis said. "I don't think he'll be (talking) that ravishly again. If he does, then we can take it to the next level. But I think he might want to keep it hush-hush and just carry the football this time."

--Mike Shanahan didn't have to go very far to find his new backup quarterback. Jarious Jackson was right around the corner -- literally. While Jackson's ex-teammates were reporting to work at Dove Valley in recent weeks, so was Jackson. Only instead of the Denver Broncos practice facility, Jackson headed for the park across the street.

"I'd go at 11 or 12 every day, me and a couple of guys released here as well," Jackson said of a group that included wide receivers Herb Haygood and Darcey Levy and running back Marlion Jackson.

"We just went out there and threw while we could hear the horns blowing and the whole nine...When they switched (practice) periods, we switched periods."

The only differences in the workouts: Jackson had no offensive line and no paycheck rolling in. Now he has both again, after the Broncos re-signed him to a two-year minimum deal just seven weeks after cutting him loose.

BY THE NUMBERS: 107 -- The distance on Chris McAlister's return on a missed field goal in last year's game against the Broncos.

22 -- Starts by Broncos QB Danny Kanell -- 5 more than the Ravens' entire contingent of quarterbacks.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos were busy in the front office because of injuries to starters. First, they opted to put backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein on injured reserve because of his broken pinky, an injury that could have sidelined him up to six weeks. Plus, it was obvious that Beuerlein's play had slipped, and that Danny Kanell likely would have been the backup even if Beuerlein were healthy. In Beuerlein's spot, Denver added Jarious Jackson to be the third-string QB. The Broncos also signed P.J. Alexander off New Orleans' practice squad to provide depth at the tackle position. Starting left tackle Ephraim Salaam is out at least 3 weeks following knee surgery.

To make room for Alexander, the Broncos put rookie defensive end Bryant McNeal on injured reserve. McNeal suddenly developed a lower-back injury, though he had yet to be activated on game day.

GAME PLAN: The Ravens know it and expect it. The Broncos will try to run the ball with Clinton Portis, giving him 25-30 carries. If they find even a hint of success, this will take the pressure off new starting quarterback Danny Kanell, and help set up play-action. Kanell is more mobile than Steve Beuerlein, so look for the Broncos to roll him out a little more.

Defensively, Denver will do what so many other teams have done to Baltimore this year: stack the line with eight defenders in an attempt to slow down league rushing leader Jamal Lewis. The Broncos will force rookie Kyle Boller to beat them through the air, and do a better job of keeping him in the pocket than they did against Daunte Culpepper.

As Shannon Sharpe said, the key is to weather the storm for the first 5-7 minutes, and try to take some of the crowd out of the game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Broncos RB Clinton Portis vs. Ravens LB Ray Lewis. Last year Lewis, riled up by what he thought was a disrespectful comment by then-rookie Portis, was everywhere. By halftime he had 11 tackles. Portis is averaging 5.5 yards a carry, but the Ravens are allowing just 3.5 yards a carry and 93 per game.

--Ravens RB Jamal Lewis vs. Broncos SLB Jashon Sykes. Lewis is a bit banged up but he's still a dangerous runner, and Sykes will have to be on his game now that he's a starter (with Ian Gold out). Lewis ran for only 78 yards in the last meeting, but he made his mark as the Ravens jumped out to a big early lead then rolled to a 34-23 win.

PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer is out another two weeks with a broken foot, and with backup Steve Beuerlein now on injured reserve with a broken pinky, the Broncos turn to Danny Kanell. He played well in relief duty last week but he will be feeling the pressure more this week.

--LT Ephraim Salaam is out at least three weeks following knee surgery which means either Blake Brockermeyer or Cooper Carlisle will step in. Expect it to be Brockermeyer, at least for this Sunday.

--WR Chris Cole is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle, which means rookie Adrian Madise figures to get playing time again this week, especially since veteran Ed McCaffrey is also questionable. Cole didn't practice Wednesday and probably won't Thursday

--C Tom Nalen has been battling an ankle injury for weeks, but while he may not practice, expect him to be in the starting lineup Sunday.

--DE Bryant McNeal is on IR with a lower back injury, which simply could be an excuse to find an extra roster spot though the Broncos said an MRI showed disk damage. McNeal didn't play a down this year.

--TE Patrick Hape is listed as probable with a mild concussion, but he has been cleared to play. With Shannon Sharpe pretty banged up expect Hape to see some action in double-tight end sets.

--WR Ed McCaffrey practiced Wednesday but he remains listed as questionable, which means it could be his third straight week with little to no action.

--SS Kenoy Kennedy practiced and is available to play but if Nick Ferguson continues to play well, Kennedy still may not get his starting job back.

--TE Shannon Sharpe was held out of practice Wednesday because of his sore knee but he will practice Thursday and play Sunday.

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