By Zack Kelberman
(247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos are getting four players back this week, but not Brandon Marshall.
Marshall has been ruled out for Sunday’s divisional road game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Safety Dymonte Thomas and guard Max Garcia are also out, head coach Vance Joseph announced.
The veteran inside linebacker is dealing with a nagging bone bruise in his knee — not unlike what right tackle Jared Veldheer suffered through from Weeks 5-8. Marshall hasn’t played since Oct. 28, ceding his job to fourth-round rookie Josey Jewell.
“He’s progressing,” Joseph said. “When he’s healthy, he will play. Josey’s played good football. When he’s healthy he will play.”
Through 10 weeks, Marshall’s recorded just 33 tackles, no sacks and no interceptions. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the NFL’s No. 58 linebacker among 80 qualifiers, assigning poor marks (49.8) for run defense and coverage ability (62.5). He was recently given the dubious distinction of Worst Contract on the Broncos by Bleacher Report.
Jewell checks in at No. 32, ahead of household names like Sean Lee and Roquan Smith. According to the analytics site, Jewell has excelled in coverage — his bread and butter and Marshall’s Achilles’ heel.
“He’s improving weekly, along with [OLB Bradley] Chubb and those guys,” Joseph said last month. “He’s a smart, engaged guy. He gets it. He’s tough. He wants to play more, but he’s played a lot of base for us and nickel. As he plays more he will improve, but I’ve been really impressed with him as a young guy playing that much football for us.”
Thomas hasn’t practiced this week due to an ankle injury. His absence would bequeath more snaps to Su’a Cravens and Will Parks. Fellow safety Darian Stewart, sidelined two games with a neck stinger, will return to the starting lineup, opposite Justin Simmons.
In addition to Stewart, the Broncos also will have cornerback Bradley Roby, running back Royce Freeman and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton in action. The trio missed Denver’s Week 9 loss to the Texans, but healed sufficiently over the recent bye week.
Roby is expected to re-assume his No. 2 job, reverting Tramaine Brock and Adam Jones to nickel and dime duties, respectively.
“Yes, he’s going to play,” Joseph said. “He’s healthy now, he’s confident and he wants to play well. He’s looking forward to getting back out there and proving his worth.”
In out-of-nowhere news reported prior to practice, Garcia sustained a torn ACL during Thursday’s session and is done for the remainder of the year. Billy Turner will start at left guard for Garcia, who was starting for Ronald Leary (IR, Achilles’).
“It was really weird,” Joseph said of Garcia’s injury. “I watched every play of practice. He didn’t miss a down. I obviously feel bad for Max. Same guy every day, he worked so hard to get back into the lineup and then this happens.”
Joseph said sixth-round rookie Sam Jones will be active to serve as guard and center depth. Recently-signed center Gino Gradkowski will also dress.
Denver will release its list of inactives 90 minutes before the 2:05 p.m. MT kickoff from the StubHub Center.