SAN DIEGO -- **At this time of the season for a contending team, injuries dictate almost every personnel move.
That was the case with the flurry of adjustments to the roster Saturday, with Danny Trevathan returning from injured reserve, running back Montee Ball and safety Quinton Carter heading to season-ending IR and tight end Dominique Jones moving up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
Trevathan's recovery from the crack above his knee suffered early in the Week 6 win over the New York Jets necessitated at least one roster move, but injuries helped set up the rest.
The weakside linebacker's return provides an injection of speed to the defense. The emergence of Brandon Marshall in his place at weakside linebackers offers the Broncos some flexibility in how they can bring Trevathan along; they can use him as a nickel linebacker and put him on a natural "pitch count" that eases him back toward every-down work.
"(Head) Coach (John) Fox will determine how much he plays," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "I know there's a window there for him and we'll see what Coach decides. But it's good to have all the healthy bodies we can and Danny's obviously a good player and it's great to have him back in the mix."
Marshall and Trevathan worked together in the nickel alignment in Week 5 against Arizona.
"We both have great instincts. We both can make plays," said Marshall. "To have [Trevathan] back will be tremendous."
Jones' promotion is a result of injuries that have rocked the Broncos' tight end position in recent weeks. Julius Thomas and Virgil Green have each missed three games this season to injuries, and if Jacob Tamme's rib injury does not allow him to play Sunday, Jones will be next. Tamme is questionable and did not practice this week until Friday, when he worked on a limited basis.
Thomas' outlook appears to be more promising, as he said he felt better this week than at any time since he injured his ankle in St. Louis in Week 11. But his ankle will still bear close monitoring.
With extra tackle Paul Cornick ruled out because of a sprained toe, the Broncos faced having limited options both at tight end and for an eligible sixth offensive lineman.
Chris Clark could handle that role, having worked there during the 2011 season. But the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Jones could also see plenty of work as an extra blocker; he has the size and power to handle the role.
Ball has not practiced since he aggravated his early-season groin strain during brief action in St. Louis on Nov. 16. The Broncos' season-opening starter did strength and conditioning work in the last two weeks, but had yet to return to practice.
Given the balky nature of groin strains and the risk of re-aggravating it, the Broncos were going to be cautious with Ball. That he moves to injured reserve is not much of a surprise; the Broncos have four other running backs on the roster who have carried the football this season, including Ronnie Hillman, who is recovering from a foot sprain he suffered on Nov. 9. Hillman is ahead of Ball in his recovery, practicing on a limited basis this week.
For Carter, the knee issues of recent weeks are a crushing blow given that he lost nearly two full seasons to knee problems after a stellar rookie season. Carter found a niche in recent weeks as a nickel safety, checking in when fellow safety T.J. Ward moved into the box as a linebacker alongside Marshall.
With Trevathan returning, it seemed likely that Ward would return to playing strong safety on every down, which would have left few snaps for Carter -- or David Bruton, who handled the nickel safety role last week after the Broncos deactivated Carter.
Exacerbating the injury issue is the juncture at which Carter finds himself: in a contract year. The 2011 fourth-round pick has played in just 30 of a possible 61 regular-season games to date in his career.
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