The Denver Broncos have played all of the 2012 NFL season with the “next man up” mantra, as key players on both sides of the ball have lost time due to injury. While most teams have a hard time bouncing back from mounting injuries, the Broncos have more times than not, found the replacement players to be just as good, if not better in some instances than the planned starter.
Whether losing DE Jeremy Beal, DT Ty Warren, LB Joe Mays, RG Chris Kuper, RB Willis McGahee, CB Tracy Porter, or anyone else, the Broncos just kept chugging along. Once players became comfortable in their roles, and it was evident that the system that Head Coach John Fox, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio put in place was the right one for this mix of talent, the Broncos reeled off 11 wins in a row and became one of the best teams in the NFL.
Now, the Broncos received some good news heading into this weekend’s Divisional Round match up with the Baltimore Ravens. With McGahee on the practice field today for the first time since his injury against the San Diego Chargers on November 18, there must have been a collective enthusiasm to see a leader return. Although Knowshon Moreno did a tremendous job in McGahee’s absence, if the Broncos are able to have both backs ready to go for an AFC Championship game if they beat the Ravens, that would be a huge lift for the offense as a whole.
Also, Kuper practiced today in limited action which would be a welcome sight against a stout Ravens pass rush. Manny Ramirez hasn’t been poor in Kuper’s absence, but the offensive line is a much better unit protecting Peyton Manning if he is lined up. Then there was another sigh of relief when talking about injured players getting back on the field.
LT Ryan Clady was on the practice field today as well, after sitting out drills with a mysterious injury that the Broncos refuse to disclose. Now, the whole time, Fox has stated that it is not an injury that would have kept Clady out of a game, but the one player you simply can not afford to lose is Manning’s blind-side tackle. Clady has been tremendous all year, and without him, the Broncos would be hard-pressed to keep Manning upright against the Ravens.
So, yes, I do believe each of these players will give the Broncos a huge lift if they were to play this weekend against the Ravens. We know that McGahee is not ready, but even if he is pacing the sidelines cheering his team on, then the boost would be incredible. This Broncos team may not be the healthiest heading into Saturday’s game against the Ravens, but one thing is for sure, health has not been a hindrance or an excuse yet this year. And as the Ravens will find out, it will not be either on Saturday.
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