By Rich Kurtzman
When the Chargers come to the Mile High City this Sunday, it’s make or break their season.
The Broncos, who are on a four game winning streak, know as much, and they’ve got to be prepared for everything San Diego may throw at them. The men in orange and blue have been practicing for three days in Dove Valley and have received some mixed news on the injury front.
Tracy Porter is the team’s only definite out this week, still suffering from the seizure symptoms that have kept him out for the last five weeks. Porter did get at least some limited practice in on Friday, good news as he tried to get back to healthy and onto the gridiron. In his place has been second-year studs Chris Harris and Tony Carter, playing at an absolute high level as of late. Carter scored his second touchdown last Sunday, retuning a pick-six off of Cam Newton as part of a 22 point run by the defense and special teams.
Almost certainly out with Porter is Chris Kuper, veteran right guard and team captain. Kuper, who fought back from a broken forearm to play in New England, only participated for some of four weeks before being injured again, this time, a severe left ankle sprian sustained against the Bengals two weeks ago. Kuper is listed as doubtful and while it was encouraging to see him as a limited participant this week, many believe he’s at least another Sunday away from competing at full speed again. Manny Ramirez will again start in his stead, and the career backup seems to be growing individually the more reps he receives.
Elvis Dumervil, who hurt his left shoulder in the blowout win over Carolina last week, is officially listed as questionable to play. Dumervil, the team’s second-best sack artist with seven on the season, was relieved to see MRI results come back negative Monday, but the Broncos aren’t in a hurry to get him back to the field, as he’s such a vital piece to their pass-rush puzzle. Robert Ayers, a former first round pick in the 2009 draft, is his likely replacement and Ayers did quite well last week in three quarters, recording five tackles and a sack. It’s likely that Dumervil’s absence will be felt and if Philip Rivers is given even a little extra time, he’s sure to complete crucial passes.
All three of the Broncos’ other players listed; Ayers (groin), Jim Leonhard (calf) and Kevin Vickerson (thigh) are probable. Ayers and Vickerson will likely compose a big portion of that all-important NFL-best pass rush—Denver leads the league with 31 sacks on the season—and they must play for the Broncos to be successful in getting pressure on Rivers.
Defensive end Robert Ayers (groin)
Safety Jim Leonhard (calf)
Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (thigh)
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil (shoulder)
Right guard Chris Kuper (ankle)
Cornerback Tracy Porter
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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.