By Rich Kurtzman
With every week comes a different team and different scenarios to plan for.
This week is no different for the Denver Broncos as they gear up to play in Kansas City against the division rival Chiefs.
But instead of usual starting quarterback Matt Cassel, Kansas City will have Brady Quinn in the backfield taking the snaps this week. Cassel’s quarterbacked terribly this season, with only six touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions and seven fumbles, and he’s been benched by coach Romeo Crennel in favor of Quinn. Quinn, who spent the last two seasons in Denver as a backup QB, came in to throw for 95 yards on 9-14 passing last week, and he’s hoping to improve on those numbers with the start this week.
Of course, it won’t be easy going against Denver’s defense, which has grown into one of the better units in all of football. Quinn will be staring down the barrel of the best pass rush in football, as the Broncos lead the league with 35 sacks. There’s no doubt Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and friends are licking their chops just thinking about hitting Quinn and rattling the mentally weak QB. The secondary—which features Champ Bailey and two second-year studs in Chris Harris and Tony Carter—may have a tougher time trying to figure out what Quinn will want to do as there’s not much recent film on him. And that secondary got some good news Wednesday, as corner Tracy Porter practiced in the early portion at Dove Valley. Porter has missed the last five games and has been working to get back to the football field after suffering a seizure in the preseason, and it remains to be seen if this is the week he finally plays again.
Also attempting to get back to the field is right guard Chris Kuper, who severely sprained his left ankle in the team’s win over Cincinnati two weeks ago. Kuper’s had a rough go of his seventh season, breaking a forearm in the preseason, battling back from that only to hurt his ankle. But Kuper ended last week with a full participation practice on Friday and he’s hoping to play in Kansas City this Sunday.
And Wednesday was a busy day for Broncos running backs as well, following starter Willis McGahee being placed on the Injured Reserve earlier in the morning. McGahee partially tore an MCL last Sunday and was originally hopeful to get back to the gridiron before the season was through since the injury doesn’t require surgery. But those hopes have ended and it means much more pressure on the Broncos’ backups. Rookie Ronnie Hillman and fourth-year runners Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno will have to all help carrying the load, and there’s no doubt running will be a focus in practice all week long. Hillman has been the No. 2 back all season, but some are worried he can’t pick up blocks as well as needed, so Ball may actually get the start. Either way, expect all three of the backups to get some share of the carries when Denver runs the ball, which won’t be very often.
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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.