Broncos Update Inside Slant - November 11

Jake Plummer felt a little clumsy at times, but otherwise he reported Monday a success as he tested his left foot and right shoulder. Read about Plummer's return and see our mid-term grades for the Broncos in today's Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Jake Plummer felt a little clumsy at times, but otherwise he reported Monday a success as he tested his left foot and right shoulder. Though he will be listed as questionable on the injury report, Plummer sounded as if he were a definite to play Sunday against San Diego. That's good news for a team that went 1-3 without him.

"It felt good just to call plays, see the guys in the huddle, throw the ball ... and sweat a little bit and not be sitting on a bike while I'm doing it," he said after Monday's short practice session. "It was nice."

Plummer missed the Pittsburgh game because of a minor shoulder separation, which he re-injured against Kansas City on Oct. 5. He also suffered a stress reaction in his left foot in that Chiefs game, and then apparently broke the third metatarsal bone while getting up off the couch the following week. He said X-rays show that the bones in his foot have mended.

"It's just a tolerance thing now. It's going to be painful for a few weeks, but when I'm in the game, adrenaline will kick in and I'm hoping I won't feel it at all," he said.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--FB Mike Anderson was suspended by the NFL Monday, but the team hadn't officially announced the move, so the amount of time Anderson will miss and the reason for the suspension was unknown.

--QB Jake Plummer practiced with the first team Monday, and aside from being a little clumsy with his feet, looked like he is ready to go after missing the last four games with shoulder and foot injuries. He remains listed as questionable and will have to play with some pain in his left foot, but bet on him starting this week.

--LT Ephraim Salaam returned after missing the past two games with knee surgery. He will start Sunday against San Diego.

--K Jason Elam acknowledged that had the Broncos had a game Sunday, he wouldn't have been able to kick. And though he didn't' do anything Monday, he would test the leg Wednesday. Elam strained his groin against New England.

--WR Ed McCaffrey did not practice Monday and will be listed as either questionable or doubtful because of a slight tear in his quadriceps tendon.

--LB Donnie Spragan was off crutches, but he still is unable to practice because of a high ankle sprain. Terry Pierce took his place in the starting lineup Monday. Spragan may try to go Wednesday.

REPORT CARD AFTER 9 GAMES

PASSING OFFENSE: C-- Jake Plummer got off to a rough start, with three interceptions in the opener. But he settled down and had the offense rolling, with a string of four games with no picks and eight touchdowns. He was spreading the ball around, and using play-action to set up some big gains. Steve Beuerlein and Danny Kanell struggled in replacing him, going 1-3 in the process and tossing seven interceptions to just three TDs. Second-year pro Ashley Lelie is getting more playing time, but he hasn't had the breakout season many expected. Veteran Rod Smith, with 35 catches for 429 yards, hasn't lost a step.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Clinton Portis is following up his rookie of the year effort with another impressive season, with 793 yards on 157 carries in nine games (but only eight starts). Before injuries to Jake Plummer, he was averaging 6.2 yards a carry. Those numbers have dipped the past month, not only because of that but because injuries in the receiving corps has prevented the Broncos from spreading the field as much, and getting the matchups they want. Portis' size prevents him from being a 30-carry back, but the Broncos have plenty of other options in Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns and Quentin Griffin, though they haven't taken advantage of them as much as they probably should.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos got off to a good start with three interceptions in the first two games, but picks have been few and far between since then. Cornerback Lenny Walls has dropped his share, but he's been a nice surprise in his first year starting. Kelly Herndon is inexperienced, but he's been competitive after taking over the right corner job from Deltha O'Neal. O'Neal has been a disappointment, losing his starting job, and eventually his nickel job because of lapses. The pass rush has been great at times, inconsistent at others. Larry Coyer put an emphasis on a four-man rush, rotating in seven and eight players during the game. It's noticeable in that all but one of the team's 21 sacks has come from linemen. Daryl Gardener's wrist injury has hurt his play, but he's hoping for better things in the second half. Denver has allowed 22 pass plays longer than 20 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Broncos are allowing only 96.1 yards a game against the run and 3.9 yards a carry, but opponents have ripped off at least seven runs of 20 yards or more. Middle linebacker Al Wilson has been a rock in the middle, but the Broncos have been hurt by the loss of outside backer John Mobley and Ian Gold.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Plenty of up-and-down play here. Poor coverage against Kansas City allowed Dante Hall's play-of-the-year punt return for a touchdown. And until Deltha O'Neal's 57-yard punt return for a touchdown in Week 9, Denver's return units were boring at best. Through nine games, kicker Jason Elam ranked second in the NFL with 18 field goals in 20 attempts. Micah Knorr has done a solid job on kickoffs, and other than a poor performance at Baltimore, his punting has been decent, with his net average skewed by Hall's 93-yard touchdown return for the Chiefs.

COACHING: C -- Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak had it all going with Denver at full strength. They kept defenses guessing with multiple formation, reverses and bootlegs. But when the injuries piled up, Shanahan and Kubiak didn't look as smart. It reduced the personnel groupings they could field and the types of calls they could make, and that made yardage much harder to come by. Shanahan also has made some questionable decisions, gambling on fourth down, and passing when Denver needed to run time off the clock. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has done a good job for improving results in the red zone, on third downs and in terms of points allowed. He's done it with many players that weren't deemed good enough by other teams.

Voice your opinion on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board


Mile High Huddle Top Stories