The Denver Broncos continue to be one of the league's hardest hit teams this year in terms of players injuries. With star pass rusher Elvis Dumervil having already been knocked out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. The Broncos are hopeful that former first round picks Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers can pick up the slack after Dumervil, who led the league last season with 17 sacks, was injured, but it will take a monumental effort from the two thus-far disappointing pass rushers to complete the job. Moss promptly broke his hand and is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks of training camp. Ayers is healthy, though he and Moss were each healthy last year, as well, and neither contributed a single sack for the Broncos' defense.
The Broncos are hopeful that two of their 2010 draft picks are able to make a quicker transition to the NFL on the offensive side of the ball, but first and third round receivers, DeMaryius Thomas and Eric Decker now have injury problems of their own to worry about.
Thomas injured his left foot -- the same foot he fractured in a pre-Combine workout that kept him from fully working out for scouts prior to the draft -- in leaping to snatch his second touchdown in Denver's scrimmage last night in front of 20,782 fans at Invesco Field at Mile High.
According to Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post, the team believed the injury to be the result of scar-tissue created by Thomas' previous injury and subsequent surgery. Thomas' injury will be further evaluated by the team today.
Considering his team's rash of injuries this year and Thomas' past, Denver head coach Josh McDaniels was understandably concerned and cautiously optimistic regarding Thomas' injury when addressing the media after last night's practice.
" It obviously was a concern right away," McDaniels said. "Yes, that was a concern because it was the same foot, but hopefully if we miss him for a little while, it would be normal for this camp."
Decker's injury could prove to be even worse than Thomas'.
Decker suffered a left foot sprain during the practice, but when team doctors gave Decker an MRI last night they discovered a pre-existing left ankle sprain, as well , according to a report from Josina Anderson of Fox 31 and KDVR.com.
Like Thomas' apparent re-aggravation of a left foot injury, the concern with Decker is that the foot and ankle sprain is complicated due to the fact that the former Golden Gopher star had his collegiate career end prematurely due to a Lisfranc sprain -- one of the more dreaded injuries in football due to its delicate and often time-consuming rehabilitation.
Previous to the injuries, Thomas and Decker had reportedly been quite impressive in practice. Thomas had struggled early, but the 6-3, 224 pound receiver had begun to dazzle onlookers with the leaping ability and rare straight-line speed that allowed him to average an eye-popping 19.49 yards per reception and score 14 touchdowns over his career at Georgia Tech. Decker, 6-2, 215, flashed the soft, reliable hands and surprising body control to make the tough catch he'd consistently shown while catching 228 passes for 3,119 yards and 24 touchdowns for Minnesota.
The loss of Thomas and/or Decker for any significant time this season could give Denver a second consecutive year with limited output from their rookie class. While the Broncos "other" first round selection -- some guy named Tebow -- looked good in throwing for a touchdown and running for another in Saturday night's scrimmage, he isn't expected to see the field much with Kyle Orton firmly entrenched as the Broncos' starting quarterback.
Last year, despite again having two first round picks, the Broncos received surprisngly little help from their rookie class. Running back Knowshon Moreno was an obvious exception, leading the team with 247 rushing attempts for 947 yards and seven touchdowns -- though he averaged a dismal 3.8 yards per carry. Ayers, selected with the No. 18 overall pick, recorded 19 tackles and zero sacks for the Broncos as a rookie. The Broncos received similar production last year from their three second selections. Cornerback Alphonso Smith, taken 37th overall, recorded 14 tackles. Safety Darcel McBath, taken with the No. 48 pick, led all Denver rookies with 26 tackles. Tight end Richard Quinn, the final pick of the second round, caught zero passes for the Broncos. He recorded two tackles and returned one kick 19 yards while playing special teams in 15 games.