Broncos Report Card - Tuesday, Sept.13

The grades are in and, as expected, the Denver Broncos didn't fare very well after their lopsided loss to the Miami Dolphins. Check out who's in the doghouse in this week's Broncos Update Report Card.

The Denver Broncos needed good news after a horrible season-opening loss at Miami, and they got some when a couple of their key players' injuries were not as serious as feared.

Cornerback Champ Bailey dislocated his left shoulder, but did not separate it, which means he will probably miss 1-2 weeks -- and could be back as soon as next week. He can play with a harness; and while he would have to deal with the pain, the biggest fear is that he would dislocate the shoulder again.

Running back Mike Anderson has separated rib cartilage. That injury wouldn't physically hinder Anderson, and he'll play through considerable pain. He got a shot during Sunday's game against Miami after suffering the injury in the first quarter, but was still unable to return.

"Both of those guys would obviously play if they're hurt," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "But we'll have to evaluate that later in the week and see where they are at."

The Broncos have to bounce back quickly from their first loss because they have an AFC West matchup against San Diego on Sunday. The Chargers are also 0-1, and the loser on Sunday faces an uphill battle to get back in the race for the division title.

So Shanahan didn't want his team dwelling on the 34-10 opening day loss at Miami too long.

"We better get ready for the Chargers because the Chargers are a good football team," Shanahan said.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- The Broncos aren't happy with rookie kickoff specialist Paul Ernster after his dreadful performance in the season opener. Ernster, a rookie, didn't have a kickoff that went past the 5-yard line and he rolled one out of bounds.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he would have to evaluate whether Ernster stays on the roster or if they use his spot to get depth elsewhere. Ernster has struggled in games, but Shanahan said he has kicked into the end zone consistently in practice.

"He wouldn't dress if he didn't do it consistently in practice," Shanahan said.

-- The Broncos used Charlie Adams ahead of Darius Watts for the third receiver spot. Watts, a second-round pick last year who was Denver's third receiver last season, fell out of favor when he dropped multiple passes in the preseason. Adams had a breakthrough camp, and he had two catches against Miami.

"He's been more consistent," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He made a couple of big-time catches in that game with limited play."

-- Jake Plummer threw a couple of interceptions and completed only 22-of-48 passes against Miami. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Plummer wasn't all that bad on Sunday, but he has to be better.

"I thought he did a couple things very well," Shanahan said. "He got out of trouble and did some things most human beings can't do. Then he had a few passes he's got to put in there better. He did some good things, he did some poor things, and you want that consistency."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Jake Plummer had a bad game. He didn't complete a pass in the first quarter and misfired on his first six passes. But Plummer didn't get a whole lot of help. The offensive line couldn't protect him, and the receivers dropped too many passes. Ashley Lelie had a chance at two touchdowns and dropped both passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Mike Anderson was knocked out of the game with a rib injury after getting five yards on four carries. Tatum Bell had a 30-yard run on his first carry of the game, but had 17 yards on his other 12 carries. Most troubling was Bell's four goal-line carries - he had no touchdowns.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Broncos played most of the third quarter without cornerbacks Champ Bailey, Darrent Williams and Lenny Walls, who were out with injuries. The Broncos' defense finally broke in the fourth quarter and allowed some long pass plays. The pass rush didn't touch Gus Frerotte, who had 275 yards passing.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos allowed 151 rushing yards, but 61 came on a reverse to receiver Chris Chambers. Denver did a decent job against Miami's running backs. Ronnie Brown had 57 yards, but he needed 22 carries to get it.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The Broncos had a lot of trouble kicking off, using rookie Paul Ernster as a kickoff specialist. Right after Denver cut Miami's lead to 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Ernster shanked a kickoff out of bounds. The Dolphins scored on the next play. The Broncos didn't do anything impressive on returns.

COACHING: F -- The Broncos looked ill-prepared. They had no answers for their red-zone problems after spending all off-season working on them. The decisions to deactivate cornerbacks Roc Alexander and Karl Paymah and running back Ron Dayne backfired when Champ Bailey and Mike Anderson were knocked out of the game with injuries. The Broncos couldn't move the ball on offense and never figured out a way to pressure Gus Frerotte.



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