Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Thursday, Oct. 5

denver Broncos kicker Paul Ernster will go about his business as usual this week, punting and kicking off for the Denver Broncos, then hold his breath next week when Todd Sauerbrun is reinstated. Read about Ernster and the latest on all the Broncos in today's edition of "Hot Topics."

Paul Ernster will go about his business as usual this week, punting and kicking off for the Denver Broncos, then hold his breath next week when Todd Sauerbrun is reinstated.

Ernster has been filling in for Sauerbrun during his four-game NFL suspension. Ernster has performed well enough that he might have a roster spot when Sauerbrun returns, and there's a chance he'll continue as Denver's punter.

Sauerbrun is another positive test for a banned substance from a one-year suspension, and Ernster is younger and cheaper. Ernster said he has thought about his future but doesn't want it to affect his play.

"I'm going to go out there like I approach every game," Ernster said. "I have to play like I'm going to be here all year, or I won't be here all year."

The Broncos could keep Sauerbrun and Ernster. Ernster began last season as a kickoff specialist -- he injured his knee before Denver's third game and missed the rest of the season -- and could have that role again. However, Ernster said he wasn't expecting the Broncos to use an extra roster spot on a second punter.

"That's going to be tough because then they have to cut someone on the roster," Ernster said. "So I'd say the odds are against having a punter and a kickoff specialist."

Ernster, who is in his second season, is 18th in the NFL with a 44.6-yard average.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer has a tough matchup this week. Baltimore is second in total defense this season. Expect Denver to have a conservative game plan to keep Plummer from making mistakes and letting the defense keep the Broncos in the game.

--RB Tatum Bell will be going against a Ravens defense that is allowing only 2.6 yards per carry this year. Bell will be tested to get some tough yardage. The Broncos also hope that he can get in the open and break a long run.

--WR Rod Smith hasn't made much noise yet. But the Broncos figure Smith will have a breakout game soon. Smith has 94 yards on 11 catches through three games.

--WR Javon Walker will have plenty of chances to make big plays this season. The Broncos like taking well timed chances down the field during a game. Walker is great at adjusting to the long ball in the air, and he is gaining Plummer's confidence.

--TE Stephen Alexander will have a big role against Baltimore, but probably not in the passing game. He is good in the running game and will need to help open up some holes against a tough Ravens defense. He might also be used as an extra blocker to slow down Baltimore's pass rush.

--K Jason Elam has is off to a good start this season. He has hit five of his first six field goals. Elam had a bit of a down season last year, hitting only 75 percent of his field goals.

--DE Courtney Brown continues to practice. He could return this week if his knee improves during the week. Brown hasn't played yet this season.

--S Sam Brandon will have a big role against Baltimore. He often covers the opponent's tight end in the "big nickel" package. The Ravens love using Todd Heap, so shutting him down will be an important task.

--LB D.J. Williams should play a lot this week. The Ravens don't often spread the field with multiple receiver sets, so Williams won't have to come off much for a nickel cornerback. Williams is coming off a good game against New England.



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