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Mile High Morning: Who are the next men up after injuries to Courtland Sutton and Drew Lock?


The Lead

The Broncos were dealt two significant blows to their roster on Mondays, as they learned that Courtland Sutton's season came to an early end and Drew Lock would miss multiple weeks as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

Sutton suffered the season-ending knee injury when trying to make a tackle after an interception, while Lock suffered his when he was sacked as he scrambled out of the pocket.

For the Broncos to keep their hopes alive, they'll have to retain the heart they showed in the hard-fought game, and the players who will play in their stead will have to take on the challenge of more playing time against top competition.

At quarterback, that responsibility falls on one man — Jeff Driskel. The fifth-year quarterback stepped onto the field Sunday in Lock's stead and filled in admirably with 256 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

In previous stints with the Bengals and Lions, Driskel played a similar role after injuries to Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and to Matthew Stafford in Detroit. In that time, Driskel completed 59.4 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns to six interceptions. Though his starting performances resulted in just one win in eight games, it's hard to place that solely at his feet, especially considering that the 2018 Bengals defense allowed the most yards and third-most points and the 2019 Lions defense was next-to-last in yards allowed and seventh-worst in points allowed. Perhaps with a defense like Denver's, Driskel can find more success.

Meanwhile, at wide receiver, the Broncos will likely continue to rely on Tim Patrick opposite Jerry Jeudy. Patrick played 50 of the Broncos' 77 offensive snaps, the most of any receiver for Denver. With a large frame, Patrick can still provide the physical toughness for catches over the middle and on jump balls.

KJ Hamler, who made his NFL debut against the Steelers and played the second-most snaps by a Broncos receiver, could also have an increased role. The speedster wideout is a threat all over the field — out of the backfield, in the slot or downfield.

For the Broncos get in the win column and continue competing with expected playoff teams, they'll need some big strides from these players — and fast.

Below the Fold

Asked for a takeaway from Sunday's game, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold provided a note on the Broncos’ quarterback situation in the near future. "[F]or the Broncos to have any success next week, they need to protect Driskel," Legwold wrote. "Lock and Driskel were sacked a combined seven times and hit 18 others."

In a close look at the game, The Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran further analyzed what the Broncos did well and what they didn’t do so well. Among the good things was the improvement in throwing deep: "The offense had 14 total explosive plays — 11 catches of at least 16 yards and three rushes of at least 12 yards."

The Unclassifieds

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