Move to linebacker impressive

Nobody could have thought Spencer Larsen, a sixth-round pick at linebacker in April, would be so valuable to the Denver Broncos this year.

Larsen started at fullback and linebacker for the Broncos on Sunday, and he also covered punts and kickoffs. He became the first player in franchise history to start on offense and defense in a game.

"I think it is cool," Larsen said. "It's a great experience. Credit the coaches for allowing me to do it."

Larsen's two-way start was mostly ceremonial, considering he played the first play on offense, then rarely appeared on offense after that. His move to linebacker was pretty impressive, however.

Larsen was a linebacker all through college, but the Broncos asked if he'd be willing to try fullback. He switched between the positions in the offseason, then settled in at linebacker for all of training camp. However, Larsen moved to fullback right before the season started. He became the starter at fullback for a while earlier in the season after impressing the coaches with some big special teams hits.

When the Broncos needed a middle linebacker -- Nate Webster was out with a knee injury, as were both starting outside linebackers -- they asked Larsen to move back to defense. He hadn't practiced or played linebacker since the preseason, but with a week of preparation, he had six solo tackles and an assist against Atlanta, helping to limit the Falcons to 114 rushing yards in a win.

Larsen did join a small group of two-way starters in the NFL since 1990. Deion Sanders started a few games at receiver and cornerback in 1996, Champ Bailey started one game at those positions in 2000, and Orlando Brown started at offensive and defensive tackle in 2003.

"I was calling him 'Deion' all week," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "He was all over the field -- offense, defense and special teams."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Jay Cutler didn't have a fantastic statistical day against Atlanta, but he did not throw any interceptions. Against Oakland, which has been far better against the pass than the run lately, Cutler could have another quiet statistical day.

--RB Peyton Hillis probably won't be a 20- to 25-carry per game back. But he will give the Broncos some tough yards on his carries and appears to be the clear top option around the goal line. Hillis had two touchdown runs against Atlanta.

--RB Selvin Young probably will be questionable for this week's game. When he does return, it's unclear what his role will be. He started the year at tailback, and the Broncos are thin at the position, but Peyton Hillis, P.J. Pope and Tatum Bell ran well against Atlanta. Young probably wouldn't be more than a part of a rotation, at least when he first returns.

--WR Brandon Marshall has had a solid season, but not the phenomenal season he appeared to be heading for early on. After getting more than 300 yards in his first two games, Marshall hasn't had a 100-yard game. He has had 89 yards in back-to-back weeks, but this week he has a tough matchup against Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Teams haven't tested Asomugha all season, and he will likely be matched up with Marshall.

--WR Eddie Royal could have a good day against the Raiders. If the Raiders decide to use Nnamdi Asomugha on Brandon Marshall, Royal would have an exploitable matchup. The Broncos featured Royal against since-released Raiders CB DeAngelo Hall in the first meeting, and Royal had nine catches for 146 yards in his NFL debut.

--WR Darrell Jackson got significant playing time against Atlanta. Jackson hasn't caught many passes but apparently has been practicing well enough lately to earn some playing time on offense.

--TE Tony Scheffler can't be counted on to put up big numbers each week until he is fully healthy. Scheffler was limited on his snaps because of a groin injury for the second straight game. He had 92 yards against Cleveland in that role, but he didn't have a catch against Atlanta.

--K Matt Prater missed another field goal against Atlanta. It was his third consecutive game with a miss. Prater is still having a good season, but his recent misses are a concern.

--CB Karl Paymah was dropped down the depth chart for the second time this season. This time, he was demoted from a starting spot and rookie Josh Bell was promoted. Paymah is a free agent at the end of the year and is running out of time to make a strong impression before he hits the market.

--DE Elvis Dumervil has a prime matchup this week against Oakland, which has allowed 33 sacks, tied for fifth most in the NFL. Against LT Kwame Harris, Dumervil should have plenty of chances to get a sack or two, especially if the Raiders fall behind early.

--LB Jamie Winborn has had a positive impact on the defense after Boss Bailey's injury. Winborn is always around the ball and has been racking up tackles. He seems poised to keep putting up big numbers down the stretch.


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