Denver Broncos: Key Injuries the Team Is Facing and How They Can Overcome Each

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IIDecember 27, 2013

Denver Broncos: Key Injuries the Team Is Facing and How They Can Overcome Each

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    There are many things that have gone right for the Denver Broncos in 2013.

    The 572 points they've scored on the season are just 17 short of the NFL record set by New England in 2007. Peyton Manning has thrown 51 touchdown passes—already an NFL single-season record.

    But there have been negative aspects to the season as well, including giving up a 24-0 lead in New England and a dismal home performance against San Diego.

    The loss to the Chargers may have given the rest of the league a blueprint on how to beat the Broncos.

    However, the biggest issue facing Denver seems to be the amount of injuries piling up as the season wears on. If Denver is going to make a run at the Super Bowl, they will have to do so without the services of some key players.

    The Broncos were able to overcome injuries to their offensive line early in the season as Dan Koppen went down in training camp, and Ryan Clady was lost for the season in Week 2.

    Manny Ramirez and Chris Clark have done an adequate job in replacing them.

    Recently, the team has lost several players that could severely impact its hope of a Super Bowl victory. Many of these injuries have been to players on the much-maligned defense.

    How can the Broncos continue their winning ways in light of these injuries? Click forward to find out.

     

Kayvon Webster, Cornerback

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2013 Season Statistics: 41 tackles, 1 Interception, 1 Forced Fumble, 10 Passes Defensed

    Many fans of the Broncos will likely see the name Kayvon Webster on this list and shrug it off as not being a big deal.

    Yes, the team's third-round draft pick has had his struggles this season, but he's also shown flashes of being worthy of his draft status.

    Webster recently underwent surgery on his thumb, which was broken in two places in the loss to San Diego. He is on track to play in Week 17 against the Raiders, but he would likely do so with a cast on his hand.

    Webster wouldn't be at 100 percent, so the question is: How effective would he be?

    The Broncos will need all hands on deck in the secondary for the remainder of this season. They will need any contribution they can get out of the rookie Webster.

     

    How Can They Overcome the Injury?

    With Webster playing with a cast on his hand, it's likely he'll see a reduction in snaps even if he is active. The player Denver needs to step up the most is Champ Bailey.

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the best coverage man in the secondary and both Chris Harris and Tony Carter can come up with a play here and there.

    But going into the postseason, Bailey is the key in the secondary. He was able to return in Week 16 against Houston and just having his veteran presence is a huge boost to the Denver defense.

    If Bailey can put together a streak of solid games, it could be what puts Denver over the hump.

     

Kevin Vickerson, Defensive Tackle

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2013 Season Statistics: 22 Tackles, 1 Sack, 3 Passes Defensed

    The absence of Kevin Vickerson, who is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury, has been evident. Vickerson and fellow defensive tackle Terrance Knighton were able to clog up the middle and limit the running game of the opposition.

    Without Vickerson, teams have run the ball right at the Broncos and have had success doing so.

    That was never more evident than in the game against San Diego in Week 15. The Chargers ran the ball 44 times, gaining 177 yards on the ground. In the first meeting between the teams, in which Vickerson did play, the Chargers gained only 84 yards rushing.

    Finally, with Vickerson in the lineup, the Broncos were giving up just 90.5 yards per game on the ground. Since his injury, that number has ballooned to 129.7.

     

    How Can the Team Overcome the Injury?

    With Vickerson out, the Broncos have turned to rookie first-round draft pick Sylvester Williams with mixed results.

    Though Williams hasn't developed into the run-stopper that Vickerson is, he has collected two sacks on the season. Still, the team will need more out of him in the postseason.

    If Williams falters, the Broncos can't be afraid to turn more to Mitch Unrein, who played very well down the stretch in 2012.

    The team also needs more out of linebacker Wesley Woodyard in defending the run. Woodyard hasn't been as strong against the run without Vickerson.

     

     

Wes Welker, Wide Receiver

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    2013 Season Statistics: 73 Receptions, 778 Yards, 10 TDs

    Wes Welker has been forced to sit out the last two games after sustaining a concussion in Week 13 against Tennessee.

    Since then, the Broncos offense has had its woes, as defenses no longer have to account for the solid slot receiver that Welker is.

    In the two games Welker has missed against San Diego and Houston, Denver has gone three-and-out on three consecutive series in both games.

    That may sound average for many teams in the league, but for this offense, it's a bunch.

     

    How Can the Team Overcome the Injury?

    It seems as though Welker will be cleared to return in Week 17 against Oakland, but with the league's current protocol regarding concussions, it's hard to say for sure.

    Players like Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme need to be prepared to step in and play significant roles on offense if Welker can't play. Neither man is able to take advantage of defenses the way Welker does, but Denver doesn't have many other options.

    Should Welker's status change or if he were to get hurt again, the team still has Gerell Robinson sitting on the practice squad. He could give the Broncos another offensive weapon that opponents aren't as familiar with.

     

Rahim Moore, Safety

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    Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

    2013 Season Statistics: 44 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 6 Passes Defensed

    Though many fans still haven't forgotten the colossal blunder made by Rahim Moore in the playoff game against Baltimore last season, the team needs him back.

    Moore continues to evolve as a defender, and he is easily the best all-around safety on the roster.

    Moore played in only 10 games this season before having to undergo emergency surgery on his left leg. He was diagnosed with lateral compartment syndrome, an injury that can lead to nerve damage.

    Though Moore was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, there's no guarantee when—or even if—he will this season.

     

    How Can the Team Overcome the Injury?

    With Moore on IR, the Broncos went and signed veteran safety Michael Huff. They may very well have to use him more than they thought they would.

    Though Mike Adams and Duke Ihenacho are both capable players at the safety position, the key is going to be finding the player who can consistently defend the middle of the field, specifically against tight ends.

    Teams are going to load up in the passing game when they play the Broncos in the postseason. Denver may be relegated to outscoring opponents in a shootout, rather than trying to stop them defensively.

     

     

Von Miller, Linebacker

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2013 Season Statistics: 34 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Pass Defensed

    Von Miller played in just nine games this season before tearing his ACL in Week 16 against Houston. Obviously, his season is over.

    The Broncos have not lost a game this year in which Miller did not play, so they've proven they can beat teams without him.

    Still, Miller is a player that simply can't be replaced—at least not by one guy.

    Miller is a defender that draws constant double-teams. If nothing else, he is a guy that opposing teams have to account for on every down. That makes it a huge loss for Denver.

     

    How Can the Team Overcome the Injury?

    As stated before, Denver won't replace Miller with one player. Instead, it will take a group effort from the entire linebacker corps.

    Most importantly, Nate Irving needs to step up and make plays against the run. Irving has made just 38 tackles on the season.

    To make up for Miller as a pass-rusher, the Broncos will need someone like Robert Ayers to get to the quarterback.

    Shaun Phillips has had a great season and has been one of the best free-agent signings in the entire league, racking up 10 sacks. With Miller out, he could see a lot of the attention shift towards him.

    One under-the-radar player to keep an eye on is recent signing Jeremy Mincey. The former member of the Jacksonville Jaguars has 20 career sacks.

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