Champ Bailey is hurting; Lenny Walls is struggling and rookie Darrent Williams won't be able to hide against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Denver Broncos appear a bit vulnerable at cornerback this week.
Bailey's left hamstring injury wasn't as bad as first feared, but he is still listed as questionable on the injury report. Bailey said he didn't know if he would play but he is encouraged and wants to try.
"I'm a very optimistic person, so I always think I can play," Bailey said. "I never count myself out."
The Broncos are hoping Bailey recovers as quickly as he did when he dislocated his left shoulder against Miami in Week 1. Bailey was supposed to miss a week or two but was back at practice the Thursday before Denver's next game. Bailey has never missed a game in his NFL career. His consecutive games streak reached 99 last Monday against Kansas City.
"He's got tremendous healing powers, as we've all seen," safety John Lynch said.
The Broncos could use Bailey because they did some shuffling among the rest of the cornerbacks. Walls, the starter opposite Bailey, was benched before Denver's game against Kansas City. Williams took his place in the starting lineup.
"He has competed and he really proved to us through preseason and the first two regular-season games that he deserved a chance to start," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He took advantage of that opportunity (Monday night), played extremely well."
Walls didn't play well through Denver's first two games, and he missed a couple of tackles when he was re-inserted with the starting defense after Bailey's injury. His missed tackle on Chiefs receiver Samie Parker led to a 21-yard touchdown late in the game.
Walls said he's not thinking about his impending free agency and he's not pressing, and he's trying to stay positive.
"I got a strong family behind me that tells me 'You fought adversity all your life,'" Walls said. "'You were undrafted, you fought your way to a starter position and one little setback isn't going to hurt.' My 'A' game is going to come soon."
Williams has played well, but he'll be in a different situation this week. Last week the Chiefs weren't prepared to see Williams in the starting lineup. From this week forward, teams can devise schemes to take advantage of Williams' inexperience.
Williams is confident and said he realizes he'll be tested and looks forward to it.
"I'm not Champ yet," Williams said. "Teams don't look his way. I got to get picked on and make some plays before teams stop looking my way."
5th meeting. The Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars have split their four regular season games and split two playoff games in the 1990s. Last season the Broncos were in field-goal range but fumbled in the final minute of a 7-6 loss at Jacksonville.
--Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil was upset that Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey insinuated during the ABC telecast of Monday night's telecast that the Kansas City players weren't playing hard. Bailey wore a microphone during the game.
Bailey responded to Vermeil on Wednesday by saying he didn't regret anything he said during the game.
"I'm not going to shy away from speaking my mind," Bailey said. "I mean, I felt like I was kicking their (expletive) so I just said it."
--The Broncos feel like the weather in Jacksonville shouldn't be a big factor in Sunday's game. It will be in the low 80s, which is better than what they faced in their season opener at Miami, when many Broncos players were affected by the heat and humidity.
"It shouldn't be too bad," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
--The Broncos can keep cornerback Darrent Williams from getting worn out by cutting back his duties on kickoff and punt returns. The Broncos inserted Williams into the starting lineup at cornerback, but the Broncos spelled him with Charlie Adams on kickoff and punt returns.
"That was just to keep me fresh," Williams said. "That was kind of a backed-up situation so we pretty much knew we weren't getting a return so he went in there to keep me fresh."
BY THE NUMBERS:
176 - The Broncos outgained Jacksonville 356-176 in last season's meeting but the Jaguars scored the only touchdown of the game and won 7-6.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"If I'm doing my job and doing it well then I'm going to talk about it." - CB Champ Bailey on being criticized by Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil for saying during Monday night's game that Kansas City's players weren't playing hard.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos won't be tempted to use rookie kickoff specialist Paul Ernster again this season. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is done for the season. The Broncos put him on the practice squad/injured list and signed linebacker Josh Buhl to the practice squad.
Ernster kicked off in the season opener but struggled, and was eventually released and signed back to the practice squad. Sauerbrun did a fair job kicking off in Denver's win over Kansas City and he'll continue to hold that job.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES:
--CB Domonique Foxworth could see his role increase. If Champ Bailey is out, Foxworth would be Denver's nickel cornerback. Foxworth, a rookie, has impressed the organization with how quickly he has acclimated himself to the pro game.
--LB Louis Green has been a solid special teams player for the Broncos. So Green's hamstring injury, which could keep him out of the Jacksonville game, could be an underrated blow to the Broncos.
--CB Karl Paymah would be active if the Broncos were without some of their injured cornerbacks against Jacksonville. Paymah, a rookie, struggled a bit in the preseason and hasn't been active this season.
--WR Charlie Adams has emerged as an important player for the Broncos. He has been a steady No. 3 receiver and the Broncos used him on punt and kickoff returns against Kansas City to keep Darrent Williams fresh.
--TE Nate Jackson is coming back from a hamstring injury. Once he's at full speed, he would give the Broncos depth at the position and could be a factor in the offense the second half of the season.
Denver can't expect to score many points. Last season they got two field goals against the Jaguars in a 7-6 loss. The Jaguars haven't allowed many passing yards this season and their running defense is among the best in the league. What Denver has to do is create some turnovers, win the special-teams battle and use the field position to their advantage.
The Broncos need to limit the big plays Jacksonville's offense gets. The Jaguars are trying to stretch the field and Denver has some uncertainty at cornerback.
Denver's pass rush, which was so good against the Chiefs last week, needs to keep quarterback Byron Leftwich from getting too comfortable in the pocket.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Broncos RT George Foster vs. Jaguars DE Reggie Hayward -
Foster and Hayward know each other well -- they were teammates for two years. Hayward would like to have a big game against his former team.
Hayward will have to use his quickness to get around the 330-pound Foster to the quarterback. The Broncos will probably try to run at Hayward, who had trouble against the run during his time in Denver.
Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith vs. Broncos CB Darrent Williams -
If Champ Bailey can play, he'll take Smith. But Bailey has a hamstring injury, which might leave Williams, a rookie who has one career start, against Jacksonville's veteran receiver. The Broncos like the way Williams competes, which he'll have to do to keep up with Smith.
Broncos interior offensive line vs. Jaguars tackles John Henderson and
Marcus Stroud -
The Broncos couldn't do much against the Jaguars' front last year. Denver's line, which is smaller and more athletic than most in the NFL, has trouble against tackles that can penetrate and stuff Denver's stretch run plays. The Broncos didn't have a run longer than 9 yards against Jacksonville in last season's meeting.
CB Champ Bailey (hamstring) wants to play on Sunday against Jacksonville. But it will be difficult for him to play through a hamstring injury. An injury to the same hamstring kept him out of the entire preseason.
CB Roc Alexander (hamstring) will be evaluated through the week. He didn't practice on Wednesday.
LB Louis Green (hamstring) might practice this week. The team doesn't know if he will be available for Sunday's game.
WR Rod Smith (concussion) will play on Sunday. He was knocked out of Monday's game but practiced this week and is listed as probable on the injury report.
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Denver Broncos Team Report 9/29/05
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