Although Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has repeatedly said he would play those who gave the team the best chance to win, players will be evaluated over the final two games, starting with a Monday night game at San Diego, with the team's playoff hopes damaged beyond repair. One of the most interesting players to watch will be running back Travis Henry.
Henry was signed in the offseason to be a top featured back, which the Broncos haven't had since Clinton Portis. Portis was traded after the 2003 season. Henry started well, with three 100-yard games in Denver's first four contests, but then had on- and off-field issues.
Henry started to pick up injuries. First, he hurt his ankle. Then he missed a game with a rib injury. He came back and sprained a knee ligament and missed three more games.
The whole time, Henry was fighting the NFL over a positive drug test. He won his appeal earlier this month.
Despite the turbulence, Shanahan has stood by Henry.
"Travis Henry is still the same back he was after our first four or five games," Shanahan said.
Shanahan also likes Selvin Young, who has started since Henry injured his knee. Young held onto the starting job even when Henry returned, because Henry isn't completely healthy.
Young has had a couple of 100-yard games, and just as impressively the undrafted rookie has taken to everything the Broncos have thrown at him. He has been effective in the passing game as a receiver and a blocker. Although he has dealt with knee and arm injuries, Shanahan said he thinks the 207-pound Young is big enough to be an every down back.
"I don't think he needs to put on a lot of weight," Shanahan said. "The guy is tough as nails."
That doesn't mean Henry is out of the mix for next season. Although he is due some roster bonuses this offseason, the Broncos are still giving the impression he will be in their plans. Henry did lead the NFL in rushing yards through four weeks, which Shanahan alluded to.
"Everybody has kind of thrown Travis Henry under the bus," Shanahan said. "He led the National Football League after four games, and averaged five yards per carry."
Young has had a promising rookie season, especially considering he was undrafted out of the University of Texas, but said he isn't worried about if he or Henry is the starting tailback.
"Travis is not completely healthy, but once he is I'm pretty sure he's going to be in the role that he started to play," Young said. "I don't care about starting and all that, I'm excited about playing right now."
--WR Brandon Marshall had 11 catches against Houston. He had 10 the week before against Kansas City, and he is the first player in Broncos history to have double-digit receptions two games in a row.
--WR Glenn Martinez got his first start, filling in for injured receiver Brandon Stokley. Martinez has had a good season as a receiver, and also returning punts and kickoffs, and will probably be back next year.
--WR Javon Walker had two catches for 20 yards against Houston. He said he is 75 percent, but will try to play as well as he can over the final two games of the season. He hasn't fully recovered from a knee injury and subsequent surgery.
--DT Steven Harris was elevated off the practice squad when Sam Adams was cut, and is getting a long look. He had a solid game against Houston. He is athletic and could develop into a decent interior pass rusher.
--S Nick Ferguson didn't play against Houston because of a knee
injury. He could be ready to go by the time the Broncos play San Diego on
Dec. 24. He was removed from his starting role earlier this year, but he
is a valuable special-teams player.
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