The Baltimore Ravens added injury to insult in their recent matchup against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The Broncos left Baltimore both humiliated (for a second consecutive year) and in a world of hurt.
Head coach Josh McDaniels has already ruled out a plethora of Broncos for next week’s game against the surging New York Jets. The list of injured Broncos includes: Brian Dawkins (knee), Andre Goodman (quadriceps), Darcel McBath (ankle), Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) and Robert Ayers (broken foot).
The injury to Ayers is significant. The Broncos believe Ayers's foot fractures will sideline him for at least six weeks and up to three months. Ayers has been the team’s top pass rusher this season playing at right outside linebacker. His injury puts a strain on the backups as the Broncos were already thin at the position. Jarvis Moss and Jason Hunter play outside linebacker, and Mario Haggan, a starting inside linebacker, played outside linebacker all of last season.
The Broncos are also in need of some safety help this week with Brian Dawkins, and his backup Darcel McBath, both out this week. Dawkins strained a knee ligament in Sunday's loss and is expected to miss two to three weeks. David Bruton is the other backup safety on the roster, along with Nate Jones, a nickel cornerback, who is available with safety experience as well.
All of the injured players ruled out were on defense. In addition to those players, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has not been ruled out after leaving the game due to a punishing high-low hit on a kickoff return.
The injury to Andre Goodman means that the Broncos again will need to rely on Perrish Cox at cornerback opposite Champ Bailey. Throughout the season, and again this Sunday, the inexperience and raw talent of Cox was obvious.
Cox was targeted early and often by Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco, who drew the overmatched Cox into a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone. The Ravens scored their second touchdown of the game on the next play. Much of the big plays and penalties that Cox has suffered from have been because he fails to look back for the ball. He is still learning the speed of the game as he often appears to be flailing after wide receivers desperately trying to break up passes.
It may be a similar story next week against the New York Jets for Cox, as Santonio Holmes returns this week after a suspension and Braylon Edwards will most likely match up with Cox every down. Jerricho Cotchery will also be utilized. It is not far-fetched to believe that Mark Sanchez will pick on Cox, instead of Champ Bailey, who has shut down receivers all year. This week, Anquan Boldin had one reception for eight yards against Bailey.
The Jets offense also features tight end Dustin Keller, who has the most yards receiving on the team, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield, who has consistently caused problems for the Broncos in the past. Shonn Greene is also a fast, hard runner that the Broncos need to contain to beat the Jets.
The Broncos will need some of the backups who have seen limited action this season to step up next week against the Jets. It is believed that the Broncos will likely promote Kyle McCarthy, a rookie safety from Notre Dame, off of the practice squad.
Despite losing Ayers and Dawkins in the secondary, the Broncos' greatest need is stopping the run. After holding three straight solid performances against the run in Weeks 2-4, the Broncos run defense allowed the Ravens, who have been struggling this season running the ball, to rack up 233 yards on the ground.
The Jets will attempt to do what no other team has yet to do against the Broncos, stop Kyle Orton in the passing game. The Jets may have the weapons to do this in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, but we'll see.