Broncos Injuries Mounting as 1 Key Starter Out for Season

Getty (L-R) Jerry Jeudy #10, Javonte Williams #33 and KJ Hamler #1 of the Denver Broncos celebrate Hamler's touchdown in the first quarter of pre-season play. August 14, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

If not for the impressive unbeaten start, the 2021 Denver Broncos‘ season is starting to seem eerily reminiscent of the injury-riddled 2020 campaign.

This current version of the Broncos (3-0) has already lost their starting middle linebacker for the season, and have a handful of starters on short-term IR, like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb , cornerback Ronald Darby, and wideout Jerry Jeudy. But the hits, literally keep on coming for them, as news broke in the early afternoon on September 27 that wideout KJ Hamler will be lost for the season with a torn left ACL.

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ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted that Hamler would be lost for the season, already compromising a thinning Broncos’ receiving corps.

 

Hamler went up for a jumpball down the left sideline on a pass from Teddy Bridgewater, with 3:31 remaining in the first half, in the Broncos’ convincing 26-0 win over the New York Jets.

The pass was a dangerous — and now costly — attempt, as Bridgewater tried to squeeze the sideline throw into triple coverage. Hamler made a game attempt, but landed awkwardly and injured his knee.


Starters Dropping at Alarming Rate

Hamler wasn’t the only football casualty in the Jets game, as the Broncos’ interior offensive line took hits, too. Right guard Graham Glasgow (knee) and left guard Dalton Risner (foot) were injured and did not return.

Glasgow, missed the Week 2 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars, September 19, due to an irregular heartbeat that was detected following Denver’s Week 1 win at the New York Giants, September 12. During the Jets game, the 2020 free-agent signee walked gingerly off the field and tried several pass protection sets on the sideline. He did not return, though, and was replaced by second-year guard Netane Muti, who has his own injury history.

Risner was injured late in the third quarter and replaced by rookie Quinn Meinerz, who made his NFL regular season debut. Should Risner not be able to go in Denver’s pivotal Week 4 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens (2-1), Meinerz will not only bring to the game an intriguing skill set, considering he’s a rookie out of a Division-III school, but he’ll also bring a fun following, thanks to his persona and catchy nickname.

One Broncos veteran lineman certainly has faith in the neophyte guards, should they be pressed into action against the Ravens.

“I hope they heal quickly,” left tackle Garett Bolles said, immediately following the win over the Jets. “They’re big pieces of this offensive line and without them, it’s going to be tough. But Muti and Meinerz came in and provided lanes to close this thing out.”


Next Men Up 

The wide receiver room was once the envy of opposing general managers around the league for it’s ascending talent and depth. But with Hamler now injured, and Jeudy still weeks away, the Broncos are now just one Courtland Sutton or Tim Patrick injury away from being really desperate at the receiver position.

Hamler’s shoes will be difficult to fill, as he was poised for a breakout season as Denver’s explosive home run threat on offense. A second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft out of Penn State, Hamler’s speed cannot be duplicated in the Broncos’ game plan. It’ll take a committee to fill that void.

Hamler’s injury forced special teams ace Diontae Spencer into more extensive action. Spencer, though, is a big drop-off from Hamler in production, as he has only recorded 10 career receptions in his three-year career, including one catch in 2021 for minus-three yards. Spencer has almost as many rushing yards (25) as receiving yards (54) in his career.

The Broncos will likely have to scour the waiver wire, seek a trade partner, hit up street free agents, or maybe call up one of their own from the practice squad — like second-year player Tyrie Cleveland, or rookie Seth Williams, a seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft. The former has six-career catches in his career, while the latter has yet to see regular-season NFL action.

Whatever the alternatives, Hamler will be sorely missed.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8

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