By Rich Kurtzman
For the Denver Broncos (1-1), it’s a short week after playing in Atlanta Monday night in a loss to the Falcons. With a third consecutive great team on their schedule, the Broncos have to get prepared, and in a hurry.
This Sunday, Denver hosts the unbeaten Houston Texans (2-0), a team some believe will be able to compete for an AFC Championship this season. Luckily for the men in orange and blue, they got some familiar faces back on the practice field at Dove Valley Wednesday.
Well, sort of.
Starting right guard and team captain Chris Kuper returned as he continues to rehab the broken forearm he sustained in mid-August. Kuper still looks to be at least a week away from being able to suit up during a game, though, as he reportedly participated in stretches but then moved to work with strength coaches.
The Broncos hope he can get back into game shape quickly as career backup Manny Ramirez has been good, but not great. Ramirez was completely overpowered on one play Monday night, which resulted in Peyton Manning being flattened.
Another Chris returned as well, starting nickelback Chris Harris. He, like Kuper, stretched but didn’t participate in the brunt of practice, working with strength coaches as well.
Harris sprained an ankle in the fourth quarter of the Steelers game Week One and he was unable to play Monday. He is closer than Kuper, and the team is hopeful he’ll be able to go this Sunday. He’s come up huge in pass coverage the last two seasons, making noticeable strides to be a great corner of late.
Without Harris, Tony Carter played nickel Monday, and he was burned a couple times in the game.
Of course, practices are closed after the 20-minute stretch period—which is the norm for many NFL teams—so specifics surrounding exactly what the Broncos worked on in practice are unknown.
But, following Manning’s-three interception night, Denver likely put in some deep passing work for the veteran QB.
Each of his interceptions occurred on passing plays over 20 yards; the first was tipped while the last two were poor decisions and even worse throws.
Manning and his receivers Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley, along with tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, have to work diligently to get on the same page and there’s no doubt the quarterback is putting in that needed work.
But the receivers are still learning too, as former Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian explained Monday night. Manning’s offense is incredibly complicated as his receivers must make pre-snap reads depending upon defenders’ body position and the coverage they’re in.
Defensively, Denver is almost certainly focusing on stopping the run.
Yes, the Broncos have been beastly against the ground this year, but they’ve yet to face a supremely talented duo of backs like the Texans’ Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.