Good morning, Broncos Country!
It seems there hasn't been much news this week than hasn't been about Trevor Siemian or Von Miller, so I'm here to crash the mainstream media's news cycle with five players not named Trevor or Von who will be key to a Broncos' win this weekend on the road.
Obviously Siemian and Miller playing well will be crucial, so let's go beyond the obvious and talk about a couple of more under-the-radar players for Sunday.
The second-year tight end will get his NFL debut at an away game but a bit of a home crowd as the Ohio State graduate will be playing in front of a lot of family and friends. And his presence - even if not his receiving production - could be important to an offense that has struggling to find some rhythm.
Especially with Virgil Green banged up and a game-time decision for playing, Heuerman could be a prominent target as Seimian's big-time receivers - Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders - will be matched up with corners Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones - a tandem that has been pretty effective in their first two weeks. The duo kept Jets' Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to just 69 yards one touchdown between the two of them as well as limiting Steelers' Antonio Brown to just 39 yards last week.
Coach Gary Kubiak is looking for a big game from Heuerman as well.
"Jeff can do a lot. He's a very bright kid. He's capable of working on the line of scrimmage; he's capable of beating man-coverage. That's the good thing," said Kubiak. "It's going to be a big weekend for him, so we'll keep our fingers crossed through tomorrow and put him to work."
But Heuerman himself understands it's time for him to step up.
"Yes, it's about time. I do need to get in there and make some plays and help this team win on the road this weekend," he said. "I'm excited to get out there with the guys, run around and get back to playing."
Backs not named C.J. Anderson
While Broncos' wide receivers have been complaining slightly about their lack of targets, No. 22 has secretly been smiling because he has touched the ball almost 50 times in the last two games combined. But with the Bengals' run defense underperforming so far in 2016, pounding the ball in the run game could be a dynamite matchup for the Broncos. But Anderson, who is prone to getting beat up, could use some solid backups to carry the load.
Enter Devontae Booker and full back Andy Janovich.
With Booker's elusive running style and toughness against blockers, he could be a surprising threat to this solid Bengals' running defense. After gaining some much-needed confidence last week following a disappointing Week 1 showing, Booker is likely getting his footing now and will only get better each week.
And the legend of Janovich hopefully continues this weekend as the fullback out of Nebraska was relatively quiet last week after scoring a touchdown in Week 1 against the Panthers. But Janovich's real threat is just having him in the game. Is he going to block? Is he going to run? What will the Broncos do with him? This dilemma for the defense is his best weapon, and he used it particularly well in Game 1.
It's alright Carolina...... I couldn't stop him either. Dude is a beast pic.twitter.com/8vtd4CMQ0H— Michael Wickham (@elmagicoblanco) September 9, 2016
O-line's right side: Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield
The offensive line has been surprisingly better earlier this year, thanks in large part to the additions of veterans Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson and the continued growth and leadership from second-year starter Matt Paradis. But last week's injury to Stephenson, which is sidelining the right tackle this week, is putting the offensive line back in rotational mode as Michael Schofield will move from right guard (where he's been much better) to right tackle while Ty Sambrailo comes in at right guard.
Sambrailo, a second-year lineman who has been battling back from injury and will likely be on a snap count, will need to be a key piece to the O-line handling its own on Sunday.
"We have options, so we have to practice those options. It's [Sambrailo's] first time out. We have to make sure that we massage that situation like we do with any player. The good news is we've had three guys play out there, so we're going to be tested here without depth. We have to find a way to make it work."
Attention for the pass rush will always be on Miller who seems to be playing MVP-level ball already.
But Wolfe, who is also basically playing in front of a home crowd, always seems to have a big game against this team, and his push up the middle will definitely be necessary again on Sunday.
Expecting a lot of howls from No. 95 this weekend.
Although there is no way to replace DeMarcus Ware, I have to admit that I love seeing the No. 57 jersey back on the field for the Broncos these days. With Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray picking up more of the load with Ware out, Watson is going to have an increased role in some packages on defense as well as continuing to shine on special teams.
Watson was close to blocking a punt last week against the Colts, and his coaches are encouraging him to keep that kind of behavior up.
"He really has some severe power," said special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. "He's just a really talented guy."
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Gary Kubiak's vision for a consistent Broncos offensive-line unit took a hit this week, and now the coach must decide how much shuffling to do.
What you should know: Ty Sambrailo's progress, how you fill in for DeMarcus Ware & more
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