The Denver Broncos were one of the most snake-bitten teams, in 2020, with mounting injuries to key players.
Denver placed Darby (hamstring strain) on the injured reserve/eligible to return list, on September 14, after he sustained the malady on the final possession of the opening-week win over the New York Giants.
Broncos fans may feel as if they’re experiencing deja vu, because in 2020, a plethora of Broncos — important Broncos — missed significant time due to injury. Perhaps no room was hit the hardest than the secondary. Denver lost starting cornerback A.J. Bouye to a shoulder injury in a 2020 Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans, which pretty much triggered a turnstile of corners making gameday appearances. A total of six players appeared on the field for at least 200 snaps.
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Bouye was never the same after the injury bug bit him. But Broncos fans can at least take solace in knowing that Darby should bounce back quickly, as the team designated him as “eligible to return.” The minimum he would miss would be the next three games. And with two of them very winnable (September 19 at the Jacksonville Jaguars and the September 26 home opener against the New York Jets), all doesn’t seem lost in Broncos Country. The other game Darby will have to miss, however, will be an October 3 home tilt against the Baltimore Ravens.
One lone bright spot could also be that rookie first-round pick Patrick Surtain II is expected to start opposite Kyle Fuller in the Broncos’ base defense. Veteran Bryce Callahan will remain the “nickel” back, manning down the slot. Surtain, the ninth-overall pick in 2020, only played 16 snaps against the Giants, so being pressed into immediate starter’s action can only steel the rookie’s mettle.
The Jeudy injury is slightly more serious, as his timetable to return is between 4-6 weeks. Jeudy, who was also placed on short-term IR, suffered a high-ankle sprain in the third quarter of the September 12 win at MetLife Stadium. Initially, it looked gruesome when Giants cornerback James Bradberry pinned Jeudy’s ankle between body and turf. But thanks to being a supreme athlete and having uncanny flexibility, the star wideout appeared to avoid catastrophic damage.
Other good news is that both Darby and Jeudy are eligible to return by the October 10 game at the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Darby slated to be ready first.
Next Men Up
Filling the two roster spots will be wide receiver Kendall Hinton and cornerback Nate Hairston. Both were on the practice squad and have been promoted to the active 53-man roster, as corresponding moves on the same day Darby and Jeudy were placed on IR.
Hinton’s name be especially familiar, as his lone career regular-season appearance was rather historical. The former Wake Forest player started at quarterback for the Broncos after the entire quarterback room was punished for violating Covid-19 protocol just hours before Denver would host the New Orleans Saints, in Week 12 of the 2020 season.
Hinton, who went just 1-of-9 for 13 yards with two interceptions, was a great sport about the anomaly and subsequent honor, noting he’ll one day “have to explain to my kids what a negative QBR is someday.” That quip was followed up by a laughing cry emoji and a facepalm emoji.
While Hinton is popular within the locker room and has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches alike for his valiant effort, thankfully he won’t be needed to hop under center again in the Broncos’ matchup with the Jaguars.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8