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Courtland Sutton (14) of the Denver Broncos gets pumped up before the first quarter against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, December 22, 2019. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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From bad to worse, as injuries continue to mount for the Broncos

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Broncos are not immune to the injury bug. In fact, this team has already been decimated by injuries and they are part of the reason why the team began the 2020 season with a loss to the Titans.

Denver was playing without superstar pass-rusher Von Miller and star wide receiver Courtland Sutton. During the game, the team lost starting cornerback A.J. Bouye and co-starting running back Phillip Lindsay.

While Miller is on Injured Reserve and may miss the rest of the season, Sutton may be back in the near future. Bouye’s and Lindsay’s injuries are still to fresh to really know when they’ll be back, although there is optimism surround both players.

On Tuesday, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio did not provide much of an update on either player.

“I do not. They’re still doing the testing on them — the MRIs and seeing the doctors. At this point, I don’t have any updates,” Fangio said.

So, which injury is the most devastating to the Broncos? Which player could come back first? Let’s take a look.

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Young at the Corner

The Broncos have a thin cornerback room. Losing Bouye, their No. 1 corner, certainly doesn’t help the position. Bouye has a shoulder injury and he is expected to be doubtful to play against the Steelers in Week 2. There is a possibility that Bouye could wear a brace and play through the pain, but we won’t really know about his status until Friday’s practice.

There’s a good chance the Broncos will have to go with young cornerbacks getting a lot of playing time. Michael Ojemudia had a strong game in his rookie debut. He had an interception that was lost to a defensive penalty on linebacker Alexander Johnson, and Ojemudia finished the game with two tackles and one pass defensed while playing 64 snaps against the Titans.

Essang Bassey is also a rookie like Ojemudia, but unlike Ojemudia he is not a mid-round draft pick who was expected to be near the starting lineup early in his career. Instead, the Broncos added Bassey as an undrafted free agent and there were questions about whether or not he could make the 53-man roster. Bassey had a strong performance in training camp and became yet another UDFA that makes the Broncos final roster of players. Like Ojemudia, he had a strong debut against the Titans and finished with five tackles on 45 snaps in Week 1.

On Tuesday, Fangio gave praise to the rookie duo in the defensive backfield.

“I thought Michael did fine last night. He played a lot of plays. He was a starter in our five or six defensive back packages. I thought he did good for a guy that’s a rookie and missed a good bit of time during training camp. It’s a testament to the amount of work he’s put in both when he was healthy and when he was injured. He stayed on top of things. The secondary coaches have done a good job with him and getting him ready. Bassey is another guy that’s just been improving. He didn’t play corner, he played nickel which is a bit different. We think he’ll keep growing,” Fangio said.

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More Gordon Please

The team can give a heavy workload to Melvin Gordon if Lindsay needs to miss an extended amount of time. Lindsay has what is being described as a “minor” turf toe injury. While that is an injury that may not be able to be labeled as “minor,” we do know it is a very painful injury that could take some time to fully heal. Like Bouye, it’s too early to determine whether or not Lindsay can play in Week 2 against the Steelers. If he can be limited in practice on Friday, then perhaps the third-year running back will be able to play in a limited role on Sunday.

The team was utilizing both Gordon and Lindsay in a near 50-50 split, but after the Lindsay injury, it was all about Gordon. Royce Freeman did get to see the field, but after Lindsay was banged up, Gordon played 22 snaps while Freeman played just six. Clearly, the team is going to use a lot of Gordon and only a dash of Freeman if Lindsay has to miss time. The Steelers have a tough run defense, holding superstar Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just six yards on 15 carries in Week 1. No matter who is rushing the rock for the Broncos, it’s going to be tough sledding out there.

After the game, Gordon talked about what to expect with or without Lindsay.

“I came from a place where I was getting complemented and I handled it well. It’s what I’m used to in fact. I talked to Phil, I think he’s going to be good, taking it day-to-day. I think he’ll be out there sooner than later. He’s a competitor, so he’s going to do whatever it takes to kind of get back out there and help this team out. We’ll be good, but we are definitely going to be in good hands while he’s gone,” Gordon said.

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Sutton Comeback?

The team was without one of their best players on Monday night. Sutton had a breakout year in 2019, but he has yet to show off what he has when playing his best football. I’ve said countless times that Sutton has just shown us the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his potential in the NFL. This season, Sutton could put up even better numbers – if he can get and stay healthy.

Without Sutton, the team had to rely more on rookie first-round pick Jerry Jeudy. That’s a good problem to have, but the Broncos were sorely missing Sutton when they were near pay dirt. Instead of using shovel passes (that don’t work) to tight end Jake Butt, the Broncos could use fade plays or ‘jump ball’ plays in the end zone to Sutton where he can sky above the defense and snare the pass for the score.

On Tuesday, Fangio provided an update on Sutton.

“I think Courtland’s making improvement. We’ll see exactly what he does tomorrow. Hopefully by the end of the week, he’s doing more. We’ll see where he’s at. I expect Hamler to be back practicing full. He was practicing last week full, but we were limiting his snaps to the service team for the most part. We expect to try and get him back acclimated into the offense,” Fangio said.

Sutton’s practice status will be monitored closely all week long. Like Bouye and Lindsay, Friday is the big day to watch out for. While Sutton may be limited early in the week, hopefully he can get a full practice in on Friday. Sutton does seem to be the closest to hitting the field, but only time will tell if the Broncos are down one, two or all three starters in the game against the Steelers on Sunday.