Broncos Update Insider - 9/25

When the Denver Broncos' run defense struggled early last year, there weren't many quick fixes. The personnel didn't fit Jim Bates' new scheme, which led to drastic changes during the year.

There isn't that sense of desperate concern this year regarding the passing defense. Denver ranks 32nd in pass defense this season, and one of their three games was against a weak Oakland passing offense.

San Diego's Philip Rivers and New Orleans' Drew Brees threw for almost 800 combined yards the past two games against Denver. This week, the Broncos play Kansas City, so a third straight poor game by the pass defense doesn't seem likely.

But the Broncos know that if they wish to be a contender in the AFC, the pass defense has to be better. But they feel like there are some ways to fix the pass defense without major changes.

"If you get that kind of effort overall, good things are going to happen," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "You have to be alarmed because you gave up so many passing yards but that is something you can work on and get better at."

Shanahan said one of the things that can be fixed in a short time are miscommunications among the defense. The team is also doing some different things schematically under new coordinator Bob Slowik, which has taken some adjustment. Shanahan said he thinks the passing defense will get better in short time.

The Broncos aren't denying the pass defense has been an issue. In back-to-back weeks they jumped out to 21-3 leads, only to be in a tight game at the end. Part of that was because the Broncos' pass defense gave up numerous big plays in each game.

"We've just got to play better," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We've got to not miss tackles, be in the right places. A few times we missed some assignments (against New Orleans), and that's not like us."

The Broncos also need to generate a better pass rush. They have two sacks in the last two games, even though both teams passed most plays after falling behind 21-3. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil hasn't been as effective playing with a cast on his right hand protecting a broken pinkie, which has hindered the defense.

The Broncos played some snaps against the Saints in a 3-4 defense, which could be a regular feature of the Broncos defense. Shanahan said he thinks the 3-4 can be tough on an offense because it is not as predictable as the pass rush from a 4-3 alignment.

SERIES HISTORY: 96th meeting. Chiefs lead the series, 52-43, but the Broncos won a playoff game at Kansas City during the 1997 season, which led to Denver's win in Super Bowl XXXII. The Broncos have always struggled at Arrowhead Stadium under Mike Shanahan, but did get a convincing 41-7 win at Kansas City last year.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos couldn't wait any longer for center Tom Nalen's sore knee to get better, so they put the veteran center on injured reserve. That wasn't easy for Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who became coach of the Broncos in 1995, a year after Nalen took over as the team's starting center.

"I've been with Tommy right from the start, and he is everything you look for in a person and in a player," Shanahan said. "It is tough to see a guy like that be injured like he has and go through the rehab he has gone through."

Nalen's career could be over, although he hasn't committed to retiring. His contract with the Broncos is up after this year, and he will be 38 years old.

--The Broncos swear they won't overlook the Chiefs this week, even though they are 0-3 and Denver is riding a three-game winning streak.

"We're not going to overlook anybody," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "They have talent, like every other NFL team. You look at our record when we play in Arrowhead, it's a tough battle, so we're not overlooking this one at all."

--The Broncos tailbacks are fine with the three-headed approach the offense is using. There hasn't been any public complaint from Selvin Young, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman, who are sharing the load in the running game.

"It takes guys who are unselfish," Pittman said. "Me, Selvin, Andre, we're all close. We're not selfish at all. We accept our roles, go out there and do our best."

BY THE NUMBERS: 2,407 -- Yards Brandon Marshall is on pace to gain this season in only 15 games. He was suspended for the first game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Tom is a little grumpier maybe." -- QB Jay Cutler, on the differences between center Tom Nalen, who is on injured reserve, and his replacement Casey Wiegmann.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The release of safety Hamza Abdullah was a bit of a surprise. Abdullah started eight games for Denver last year and came into training camp as the starter. He lost his job when he was slow to return from a groin injury in training camp, and then wasn't even active the last two games.

The Broncos replaced Abdullah with veteran safety Vernon Fox. Fox had spent time with San Diego, Detroit and Washington.

PLAYER NOTES

--C Casey Wiegmann brings leadership and a veteran savvy to the Broncos' center spot. That's why even though Tom Nalen was a key part of the offense for so many years, they haven't missed much with Nalen out.

--G Kory Lichtensteiger played center in college and could fill in there if C Casey Wiegmann went down with an injury. The most likely scenario would be guard Ben Hamilton moving to center from his left guard spot.

--WR Travis Wilson was released off the practice squad. The Broncos gave him a look after he was released by Cleveland.

--G Dylan Gandy was signed when Tom Nalen was placed on injured reserve. Gandy provides some depth.

--S Calvin Lowry's role in the passing defense should be safe for a little while, but veteran Vernon Fox was signed to add depth. If the Broncos keep struggling in the passing game, they could make some lineup changes.





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