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Defense readying for Palmer or Stanton


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** Fresh off the bye, the Broncos have plenty of pep in their step as they prepare for their fourth challenging opponent in as many games in 2014.

"We definitely enjoyed our bye week but you can tell with the bounce we had at practice today, everybody's ready to get back out there," Aqib Talib said Wednesday.

As far as preparation goes, however, the defense doesn't yet know who the Cardinals' quarterback will be on Sunday with uncertainty over starter Carson Palmer's nerve issue in his throwing shoulder.

Check out the best photos from Wednesday's practice at Dove Valley.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said earlier in the week that Wednesday would be an important point in Palmer's progress, but the quarterback missed Wednesday's practice to see a specialist, and Arians said Palmer has regressed in his recovery. Arians didn't rule Palmer out of playing Sunday, but if he can't go, eight-year vet Drew Stanton will make his seventh NFL start.

Stanton didn't throw a single pass during the 2011, '12 or '13 seasons but beat the Giants and the 49ers in Weeks 2 and 3 while throwing two touchdowns and committing no turnovers.

"I always knew that he'd be able to perform given an opportunity, and he's risen to the challenge," Arians said on a conference call with Denver media.

Palmer, the No. 1 overall pick in 2003, was off to a hot start in 2014, throwing for 304 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 1. Rahim Moore said Monday he thinks Palmer is underrated and "looks great on film."

But whether Palmer plays or not, Denver expects the same schemes from a Cardinals offense that likes to air it out early and often.

"They don't change their offense," Head Coach John Fox said Wednesday. "They're going to run the same plays."

"They're going to give you eight to 10 shots a game," Talib said. "It don't matter who the quarterback is, he's definitely going to throw that ball downfield."

"(Nos.) 11, 12, 13 and 15 -- They don't care who plays quarterback so we shouldn't care who plays quarterback."

Those would be the jersey numbers of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown and Michael Floyd, the Cardinals' primary wideouts. The group features a wealth of talent and a variety of styles, with eight-time Pro Bowler Fitzgerald and former first-round pick Floyd as big targets on the outside and a shifty rookie in John Brown in the slot.

Floyd is averaging a gaudy 22.9 yards per catch on 11 receptions, while Brown has found space for three touchdowns, including two against the 49ers in Week 3.

"I think it's probably the toughest receivers we've played so far," Chris Harris Jr. said. "Big, physical receiver guys. Their quarterback, he loves to throw shots, throw deep. That's something that I've been doing extra myself, just catching a lot of deep balls getting ready for that."

Though the secondary will have to grapple with home run attempts from either Palmer or Stanton, Harris is taking solace in the fact that the steady diet of mobile quarterbacks is on hold, at least for this week. When asked both QBs' lack of mobility will make things easier, Harris was pretty straightforward.

"I would say... yes," Harris said, letting out a few laughs. "Not having to cover forever and not having to chase receivers forever makes my job way easier. Everybody of course loves to play pocket passers, definitely."

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