Broncos Update Inside Slant - December 30

No question Mike Shanahan made the right choice sitting many of his starters, particularly Plummer, Smith, Sharpe, Clinton Portis and Dan Neil. The Packers game meant nothing, and players stayed fresh with a full week of practice. Check out the Broncos report card for the game as well as all the latest personnel news and notes, quotes and ancedotes in today's Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Veteran wide receiver Ed McCaffrey was undergoing a series of tests after suffering his second concussion in three games. And as a result, one question starting to be asked is: When is enough enough?

The good news is that both an MRI and CT scan done Monday were negative, but coaches couldn't say for sure if McCaffrey would be ready to practice Wednesday and play Sunday's wild-card game. Coach Mike Shanahan urged reporters not to jump to conclusions about McCaffrey's future.

"Let's find out where he's at right now and if it is bothering him then it a legitimate question, but I'd have to talk to Ed to see how he feels," Shanahan said. "He's taken a bunch of shots and he's a guy that keeps on getting back up and if he's worried about it, I'm worried about it.

"But before we kind of jump off a cliff let's find out where he's at."

McCaffrey suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a pass over the middle, and also was drilled after a sideline reception. While coaches rested many other starters, Shanahan thought it important to play McCaffrey since he has missed a lot of time and needed to get back in game shape.


--WR Ed McCaffrey took three pretty big hits against Green Bay, the last a helmet-to-helmet shot that knocked him woozy. Though McCaffrey isn't a big part of Denver's passing offense, he is perhaps their best downfield blocker, so if he can't go that could limit the Broncos' long runs. He was undergoing a series of tests.

--DT Darius Holland was questionable last week because of bruised ribs but he started and played quite a bit, which means he should be ready to go for the playoffs.

--RB Clinton Portis said he was about 90 percent last Thursday after missing the previous game with a high ankle sprain. By next Sunday he said he should be 100 percent, so look for him to return to the practice field on Wednesday.

--KR Reuben Droughns was held out of Sunday's game, an indication that his ankle was still a bit tender. If he's close to 100 percent, look for him to get his kickoff return job back even though rookie Adrian Madise had an 83-yarder against Green Bay. Madise also fumbled on a poor play that resulted in a Green Bay touchdown, and the Broncos want a more sure-handed guy back there.

--QB Jake Plummer didn't pass very often the last time Denver faced Indy, but when he did he made the Colts pay. He overcame a first-pass interception returned for a touchdown to finish 14 of 17 for 238 yards and a touchdown. The big question is whether he'll be as sharp after not playing Sunday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We'll just look at one game in a row. After we can win one game on the road, I'll answer the other question the next week and hopefully the next week and the next week." -- Coach Mike Shanahan on whether his wild-card team can win three games on the road to reach the Super Bowl.



PASSING OFFENSE: D -- OK, so Jake Plummer didn't play, and neither did starting WR Rod smith and TE Shannon Sharpe. But this was an opportunity for Denver's second-and third-string QBs to show they deserve to return next year. Instead, both Jarious Jackson and Danny Kanell may have written themselves tickets out of town. Jackson got the start, and while he showed some fancy footwork, he is still too erratic (4 of 9 for 41 yards with one INT). Kanell moved the offense at times but couldn't get Denver in the end zone.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Quentin Griffin couldn't top last week's 136-yard performance but he continued to show some nice moves and speed, though he averaged only 3.5 yards a carry as the Packers were determined to stop the run and make Denver beat them through the air. Rookie Cecil Sapp made his debut and did OK once he settled down. Sunday also was a chance to take a look at first-round pick George Foster, though the massive tackle showed he's still raw.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Denver sacked Brett Favre twice and intercepted him once and did a pretty good job on his stable of receivers. Considering Denver was playing with a makeshift secondary, overall coaches had to be pleased.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- When a team gives up 262 yards rushing, the grade is typically an F, but Mike Shanahan was shuttling a lot of players in so it's hard to be too critical here. Middle linebacker Al Wilson and DE Trevor Pryce were done for the day when Ahman Green ripped off a record-breaking 98 yard run, but Denver's starters will need to be stingier in the wild-card game if they hope to win.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Adrian Madise showed an ability to hit the hole fast on kickoff returns, as evidenced by his 83-yarder. But he also showed his inexperience, muffing another return, then having the ball stripped for a Packer touchdown. Punt returner Deltha O'Neal still dances too much at times, but he had one nice return for 27 yards. Kicker Jason Elam made his only FG attempt from 31 yards and Denver's coverage units were generally solid.

COACHING: A-minus -- No question Shanahan made the right choice sitting many of his starters, particularly Plummer, Smith, Sharpe, Clinton Portis and Dan Neil. This game meant nothing, and players stayed fresh with a full week of practice. Sunday's game also showed what some younger players are capable of - or not.

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