ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos knew they'd be without Derek Wolfe, who is scheduled to miss two to four weeks because of his elbow injury, and on Friday, Head Coach Gary Kubiak announced that they would have to face the Saints and their explosive, well-balanced passing game without Aqib Talib.
But unlike last week, the Broncos will have Kayvon Webster back, giving them a booster shot of needed experience and leadership -- which is where Friday's round-up begins.e
- WEBSTER READY TO GO**
Playing without Wolfe and Talib against Drew Brees and New Orleans' rapid-fire passing game is a blow to the Broncos' hopes, but the return of Webster from a hamstring injury should help the Broncos be more physical on the outside against the Saints, quick, fleet cornerbacks.
Webster practiced all week after missing last week's game against Oakland and should be good to go as the No. 3 cornerback. That will mean plenty of snaps because of the Saints' emphasis on three-wide receiver formations with Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Michael Thomas, all of whom have between 37 and 47 receptions and between 470 and 600 receiving yards, illustrating the balance among the trio and the need for quality work from the Broncos' top three cornerbacks.
"Kayvon's had a good week. He's ready to go," Kubiak said. "He was close last week, so we really need to get him back."
2. GOTSIS GETS READY
Replacing Wolfe will take a collective effort among the entire defensive line, with Billy Winn and Darius Kilgo both seeing more time in Wolfe's absence.
But no one has more to gain than second-round pick Adam Gotsis, who hopes to build off a solid performance last week that Kubiak thought was the rookie's best to date.
Just getting into a rhythm last Sunday with more repetitions in the wake of Wolfe's injury helped, Gotsis noted.
"The more you're in there, the more comfortable you can get in the game, the more you can get a feel for your opponent," Gotsis said. "It's kind of hard when you go in there for a play, and you're out, so when you can get in there and build a rhythm and get a feel for the guy you're going against, you know what you can do to beat him.
"As the game went on, I got way more comfortable in there. I'm just looking forward to another opportunity to be out there and play, you know."
And to fully capitalize on the moment, Gotsis knows he must play with hair-aflame energy and urgency from start to finish.
"You're going to treat it like the last play," Gotsis said.
"You've got to surprise some people, do some things and try to be special out there."
3. GOTSIS LEARNS BY WATCHING WOLFE
With similar builds and unique athleticism for their size, Gotsis can learn a great deal from watching Wolfe -- and has so far.
"Just watching his physicality at the line of scrimmage. A lot of times, when he's getting a base block, you see the offensive lineman just snap back. He controls that line of scrimmage," Gotsis said.
"I try and do a little bit of that, and try and mimic a little bit of him, but he does a great job of getting to the quarterback and putting pressure on the quarterback."
Wolfe knows Gotsis is looking to him for an example of how to play.
"He is always watching. I can kind of feel him watching. It's kind of creepy," Wolfe joked. "He's watching everything I eat; he's like a little puppy following me around. But that's what I did when I was a rookie."
Wolfe said he watched Elvis Dumervil and Justin Bannan during his 2012 rookie season -- "guys that had been around for a while and were doing it the right way," Wolfe said.
"That's the kind of guys that I latched on to, and [I was] trying to do what they did. Then you've got to find your own game. You can't do what everybody else does, because you're not always going to be good at what everybody else does."
Take a look at the matchups that could decide the winner of Sunday's game in New Orleans. (Photos by AP)
- ONE KEY TO RUN DEFENSE: REMAINING STOUT AGAINST DOUBLE TEAMS**
It hasn't been the raw-power, man-on-man-blocking runs that have caused the Broncos problems this season; it's the counter plays, changes of direction and double-teams aimed at the three-technique spot that have set up the long runs that have spiked the Broncos' run-defense numbers this season.
"You've just got to play your gaps," Gotsis explained. "So whether you're a three-technique or a B-gap player, if you're getting the double-team, you've got to sit in there. You can't get pushed all the way back to the linebackers and get blown off the ball.
"You've just got to sit there, eat that and if that linebacker's coming downhill to take one of them off you, you've got to play the play then."
When the defensive end goes outside to a five-technique position -- over the tackle -- the same principles apply, even though the double-team can come from a tight end.
"You've just got to do the same thing: play your gap," Gotsis said. "Don't try and do too much. If the play's in the A-gap, and you're a C-gap player, you've got to make sure you do your job before you try to do too much.
"It's just that everyone's got to be on the same page, and 'Do your job' is the big message, I think."
- DEFINING SUCCESS AGAINST THE SAINTS OFFENSE**
A better way to measure success for a defense is by measuring what it does relative to the average output of an opponent, and in that area, the Broncos have improved this season, holding foes to 7.5 points below their average. Last Sunday's loss to Oakland was the first time all season the Broncos failed to hold a team below their season-long average; Oakland scored 2.8 points above its 27.2 points-per-game pace.
Only the Atlanta Falcons have amassed more points per game than the Saints, who bring a 30.3 points-per-game average into Sunday -- a pace that spikes to 33 points a game inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Not only are the Saints effective on a per-game basis, but a per-possession basis, as well. With a an adjusted net-points-per-possession of 2.68, only the Falcons and Cowboys are more efficient at on-the-scoreboard production. The Saints also rank third in first downs per series (2.31) and fourth in net yardage per series (39.4).
In those same statistics, Denver's defense ranks fifth (1.57 adjusted net points per series), eighth (1.75 first downs per series) and fifth (28.2 net yards per possession), holding foes to 21 percent, 16 percent and 11 percent below their season-long averages.
Despite injuries, if the Broncos can hold the Saints below their pace, they will give themselves a chance -- especially because the Saints are near the bottom of the league in most metrics and rank 29th in overall per-possession defensive efficiency.