ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – It looks like Peyton Manning will have to attend his homecoming at Indianapolis on Sunday without the two massive tackles he started the season with.
The Broncos are holding out hope that right tackle Orlando Franklin, who sprained his left knee and ankle Sunday, won’t be sidelined for an extended time like All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, who landed on IR last month with a foot injury.
Coach John Fox provided no updates on Franklin, who went for an MRI exam Monday, or defensive lineman Sylvester Williams (neck).
At the very least, it looks like Franklin will miss the Colts game, however.
He limped through the locker room Monday with a walking boot on his left foot when he came out of the meeting room and was holding crutches, but not using them. He needed a cane to hobble out of the stadium Sunday night after Denver’s 35-19 won over Jacksonville.
Franklin got hurt early in the third quarter when he was caught in the pile on Knowshon Moreno’s first of three touchdown runs.
It’s been a difficult year for the men who protect Manning.
The Broncos (6-0) lost centers J.D. Walton and Dan Koppen to injuries last summer, leaving the job to Manny Ramirez, who had never started at center before this season and who’s still working out the kinks. His two bad exchanges with Manning on Sunday were both recovered by the Jaguars (0-6).
After Franklin got hurt with 12:16 left in the third quarter, Chris Kuper came in at right guard and Louis Vasquez moved to right tackle for the first time in his career.
Franklin’s absence affected the play calling of offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Manning, although Denver had two touchdown drives capped by Moreno runs behind the makeshift offensive line.
“I thought Adam did a good job calling plays with Vasquez,” Manning said. “I’m not sure he’s ever played right tackle before. It kind of changes the way I think about audibles and things like that when you’ve got a new right tackle.”
Despite the revolving door of offensive linemen, Manning has been sacked only five times, the fewest in the league for any QB who’s started all his team’s games.
For however long it lasts, Franklin’s absence could have a big impact on the Broncos, whose 265 points are the most by a team through six games in league history.
They could stick with Kuper-Vasquez again on the right side or they could move Vasquez back to right guard, where he’s started all 60 of his career games, and insert eighth-year pro Winston Justice, who was inactive Sunday, at right tackle.
Justice, who started 13 games for the Colts last season and signed as a free agent with Denver after Clady got hurt in Week 2, has quickly gotten up to speed and could step in Sunday if needed, Fox said.
“He’s had plenty of time to learn our verbiage and our offense,” said Fox.
Franklin has started all 44 games, including playoffs, since the Broncos made him a second-round pick in 2011 out of Miami.
Notes: Walton, who had a setback in his comeback from ankle surgery and underwent another operation in June, is eligible to return to practice this week. … The Broncos won’t have to make a roster move until Saturday to get Von Miller back on the 53-man roster. The team has a roster exemption until then for its star linebacker whose six-game suspension ended Monday. … With Denver and Kansas City tied atop the AFC West, this marks the first time in 79 years that two teams from the same division started 6-0. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, then members of the NFL’s Western Division, started out 10-0 in 1934. Neither of those teams went on to win the championship.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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