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Mounting injuries create difficult adjustments


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** With 22 names listed, the Broncos' injury report currently constitutes an incredible 41 percent of the active roster. It's also so long that it's a bit of a milestone for Head Coach Gary Kubiak, though it's one he'd assuredly have preferred to not encounter.

"That is the longest list that I've ever had, but I think some guys are pushing to get there, so I think tomorrow is a big indicator for us as a team," Kubiak said. "I think we're having a good week. We just have to see what takes place over the next 48 hours."

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The more noticeable impact brings change to the starting lineups, particularly on defense, which has sustained significant injuries to OLB DeMarcus Ware (back), NT Sylvester Williams (ankle), ILB Danny Trevathan (concussion) and safeties T.J. Ward (ankle) and David Bruton Jr.(knee).

However, one of the defense's biggest strengths has been its extensive talent across positions and from top to bottom.

Even safety Josh Bush, who was released in October and re-signed five days before Sunday's game against the Chargers, made a positive impact. Thrust into the Broncos' dime package against San Diego with Ward out, Bush forced a fumble. A quarter later, the Broncos safety depth was depleted even further with Bruton suffering a knee injury, and Bruton's status heading into the Week 14 matchup against Oakland could require more playing time from Bush.

"The safety position obviously is a concern for us because the guys haven't been here," Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said. "[Bush] will play significantly probably this week, but he played well. He did a good job for us in the preseason. That's why we brought him back and he knows the defense. I expect him to be solid. He's a really conscious guy and a smart guy, so those things bode well for him and us."

The offense could take a sizable hit, as well, with QB Peyton Manning and RBs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson all unable to practice through Thursday. Each starter on the offensive line was also listed on the injury report, though all participated in practice.

Because of various injuries from week to week, the Broncos have called on their depth often. In such cases as the offensive line like when rookie guard Max Garcia has filled in for Louis Vasquez, Kubiak and his staff have occasionally utilized substitutions for health as a proactive measure rather than as a reactive one.

"Because you go into a game with 46 [players] anyway, your depth at certain positions, even throughout the year, is somewhat limited," Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison said. "You try to put enough of different personnel that you can get out of a game if you have problems.

"We've always tried to adjust and we've always tried to still do our core stuff with different people. There's a little bit of a challenge, but it's something that is kind of learned. We have an educated process in how we do that anyway." 

Ultimately, reaching into the depth on offense and defense impacts special teams heavily. This was seen against New England when Special Teams Coordinator had wide receiver Cody Latimer fill in at left gunner for safety Omar Bolden, who saw more defensive snaps than usual, in addition to returning punts and kickoffs. And as injuries pile up, special teams could be sapped, too.

"It's been a fluid week, there is no question," DeCamillis said. "This is where all the training camp stuff, all the OTAs, all the young guys getting reps really helps out. Then their work continued during the year. We just have to trust what they've done in practice, try to put fresh guys out there every time and try to play as fast as we can."

The Broncos may have addressed safety depth in signing Shiloh Keo on Wednesday, but he also can help DeCamillis as a former special teams captain. "It's a nice addition to have. I watched him when he was with Houston. I have a lot of respect for him, and he plays the right way. We're looking forward to having him," DeCamilllis said. "You'll see him on special teams this Sunday, I can tell you that."

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