ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos aim to change the course of their season, reinforcements could soon be on the way.
Safety Su’a Cravens and wide receiver Jordan Taylor will return to practice Monday after missing the first six weeks of the season.
"[Cravens] can practice," Head Coach Vance Joseph said Monday. "Obviously it’s a short week. It’s a walkthrough today, walkthrough tomorrow and a couple fast periods on Wednesday, but he’s back at practice."
Joseph said Taylor would also practice.
Cravens was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 2 after he underwent knee surgery. Taylor has been on the Broncos' Physically Unable to Perform list since the start of training camp as he rehabs from hip surgery.
Cravens is eligible to return in Week 9 against the Houston Texans.
“I’ve been in meetings,” Cravens said. “Even though I’ve been hurt, I’ve been in meetings. I’ve been in all the DB meetings, and like I said, I’m ready to go. If I wasn’t on IR, I’d be playing this week.”
The Broncos traded for Cravens during the 2018 offseason as they looked to add versatile depth to the safety position. Cravens possesses the athleticism to play both in the box and as a deep safety, which should allow the Broncos to add to their defensive arsenal.
In his time in Denver, Cravens has appeared in just one game. He participated in the Broncos’ final preseason game after missing the first three with knee soreness. The injury worsened in that game, though, and Cravens needed to undergo surgery.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have up to 21 days to decide whether to active Taylor to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve. Taylor can be activated at any time during that 21-day window.
Taylor, meanwhile, joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and has 29 career receptions for 351 yards and two touchdowns.
NOT ACCORDING TO PLAN
As the Broncos looked for a way to slow down a Rams offense that averaged 34.6 points per game heading into Week 6, they decided on a game plan that would limit Jared Goff and the Rams’ potent passing game.
“You pick your poison,” Joseph said Monday. “Obviously that offense was explosive, and they’ve scored their points through the passing game. So I thought our plan helped to contain the passing game."
That plan largely worked, especially during the second half of Sunday’s game. After completing 9-of-15 passes for 137 yards in the first half, Jared Goff went 5-for-14 for 64 yards and an interception after the break. The Broncos allowed a couple of long passes on the Rams’ first two drives, but after those breakdowns, the unit settled down to contain Goff, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Co.
As a result, the Broncos held the Rams to a season-low 23 points.
But it still wasn’t enough to earn a win, as Todd Gurley did enough on the ground to neutralize the Broncos’ aerial success.
The third-year player finished with a career high 208 yards on 28 attempts and also added two touchdowns.
“By no means [was] our plan to let Todd Gurley rush for 200 yards,” Joseph said. “That wasn’t the plan. Again, when you’re playing more shell coverage to take care of the pass game, you’re going to be a little vulnerable to the run game, but [not] fitting it and tackling — [there’s] no excuse. So that being said, that was the plan. Inside of that plan was also to contain the run game, and we didn’t do that."
Over the previous two games, the Broncos have struggled mightily to stop the run, especially when they’re in a nickel defense. With five defensive backs on the field, Denver has allowed a number of big runs — and Joseph said that boils down to fits, tackling and play calling.
“It’s all those things,” Joseph said. “It hasn’t been good. It’s got to get better quickly.”
Returning to their early-season form against the run, though, may require more than in a change in scheme and execution.
“Stopping the run game is a mindset,” Joseph said. “You can’t go out there and not have your mind [set] to defend the run. That’s half the battle. It’s a mindset. So we have to get back to getting off blocks, fitting the run game and … winning tough downs.”
SLIM TO NONE
As several Broncos players noted following Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Rams, the team has been close to snapping this losing skid on several occasions.
If Denver is going to do that, though, the team may need to play near-perfect football.
“I think where we are, our margin for error is small,” Joseph said. “We can’t make the normal football mistakes. For instance, Sunday, our offense would’ve had 10 more points without those penalties. Emmanuel’s penalty, that was at least four points, the two holding calls was three and the interception was probably three points. So that’s 10 points that we didn’t get because of penalties. So I agree with you. Right now, where we are, we cannot make mistakes.”
Playing mistake-free football is a tall order, but it would certainly help the Broncos as they travel to Arizona on a short week.