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Broncos, Briefly: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018


"Our young guys have performed, they've played, been prepared to play and performed when we've needed them to," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "And they've had to ... no question about that, they've had to."

With cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s fractured right fibula -- suffered in the first quarter of the Broncos' 24- 10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday -- forcing the three-time Pro Bowl selection out of the lineup, rookie cornerback Isaac Yiadom gets his turn.

The Broncos already have rookie running backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who are first and second on the team in rushing, and Lindsay is fourth in the league with 937 rushing yards.

Rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb is second on the team in sacks and one of 13 players in the league with at least 10.

Rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton is second on the team in receiving yards (558) and fourth on the team in receptions (28). In the wake of the Demaryius Thomas trade on Oct. 30, Sutton has played as the team's No. 2 receiver while fellow rookie wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has played as the No. 3.

Rookie linebacker Josey Jewell has started the past five games, and rookie linebacker Keishawn Bierria, a sixth-round pick, has been used on defense when Brandon Marshall (knee) and Jewell (ankle) have been injured.

"All our young guys, they've been doing what we need," veteran linebacker Von Miller said. "You could tell this group was going to work all the way back in training camp, the offseason. They're quiet and they work and we need them to now more than ever."

"We don't care what the other teams are doing," defensive tackle and proud papa Shelby Harris said on Monday.


Because what's impressive about this Broncos surge is how they recognized where they were wrong and humbly made it right. They've gone safe in a weak-link passing game and ditched safe in a turnover-hungry defense. Mostly — here's the biggie — they've bridged a generational and leadership gap in their locker room.

While the leaders in the building score the big bucks and most of the credit, you still need a willing group of followers to make it work. The new guys John Elway brought in were sharp enough to fall in line.

Against the Bengals, Denver was already without No. 3 cornerback Tramaine Brock because of sore ribs, and the loss of Harris immediately bumped up rookie Isaac Yiadom to the No. 2 corner behind Bradley Roby. Safety Justin Simmons, who has played every defensive snap this season, took over at nickel — and to much success.

"It says a lot for a guy not to work nickel all week and to move there in the first quarter of the game and play 50 snaps there at a high level," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said of Simmons. "But that speaks also to his physical traits, to match (Tyler) Boyd, who was their best guy outside of A.J. Green. When A.J. went down it was all Boyd, so to match him down the seam … he won more than he lost. That's special and it's good to have him."

O'Halloran: I look at three players as options — cornerback Bradley Roby and safeties Justin Simmons and Su'a Cravens. Roby, entering the final four games of his contract, should ask for the task of playing inside to increase his profile entering free agency. Simmons handled some of the duties against Cincinnati and Cravens has the athleticism to do it. I like Simmons in that role as part of a three-safety (Simmons, Darian Stewart and Will Parks), two-cornerback (Roby and Tramaine Brock — when he gets healthy) personnel package.

Their season left for dead — in this space and just about everywhere else — the Broncos are putting back together their puzzle behind two pieces, in particular: that 1-0 mentality, where yesterday and tomorrow don't matter; and with Lindsay, a Colorado story unlike any we've seen since Kyle Freeland's last start for the Rockies.

Lindsay and Freeland are the finest Colorado duo since a cold 90 Shilling and a warm Pikes Peak sunset.

And suddenly the Broncos are back in the mix.

They've won three straight games for the first time since Week 3 in 2016. They're .500 after losing four straight in September and October. They're one game back of a playoff spot with a bunch of crummy opponents coming up. Ahem.

"He's just out of this world," Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. " ... I see it every day -- Phil is Phil, and everybody can see that now."

"I think you judge lead backs by their durability, and he's been available every week," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "Everyone sees his size, and everyone's amazed of what he's doing right now ... he's a tough guy, he's fast through the hole. ... He gets to the second level with speed, and it's hard to tackle a back like that. He's been impressive; his maturity, his mentality, it's been impressive how tough he is."

The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder has averaged more than 7 yards per carry in each of the team's past three wins and has had at least one run of at least 32 yards in each victory. And week after week, game after game, Lindsay keeps expanding his role in the offense as he helps a team that was 3-6 get into the thick of the playoff race.

While aiming for a quick return, Harris also knows the reality.

"I feel way better (Monday), but you just have to rest and let the bone heal," he said. "I always heal fast. I have the right people around me to help me get back fast."

The Broncos, Miami, Indianapolis and Tennessee are all 6-6, one game behind Baltimore for the final AFC wild-card spot. If the Broncos host the Chargers in Week 17 with a playoff spot on the line, Harris wants to be a part of it.