ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Unless the Denver Broncos have more players go down in what has been an injury-marred season, some of their youngsters won't get more playing time simply because the team has dropped out of the playoff race.
The Broncos are mired in a seven-game losing streak and are in last place in the AFC West at 3-8. But coach Vance Joseph said Thursday the priority is still to win games rather than simply toss some of their recent draft picks into the lineup.
When the Broncos decided it was time to get a look at quarterback Paxton Lynch last Sunday in Oakland, it raised a question about some of their other less-experienced players. Lynch made his first start of the season against the Oakland Raiders but suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter that could keep him out for the remainder of the year.
Joseph said after Thursday's practice that in his discussions with president of football operations/general manager John Elway, the two had not come to the point of putting the youngsters on the field for the sake of getting them experience.
"I don't, I don't, I should say we don't [have a mandate]," Joseph said. "We want to win a game, guys. We've got five ballgames left and it's been a tough, tough year. We want to win a football game. We are playing the guys who can help us win."
Asked if wins were more important than players gaining experience at this point, Joseph added: "Yes, yes, it's more important than having a future look at a guy. We watch them every day here [at practice]. That's part of the evaluation also."
Other than Lynch, the most discussed player who hasn't been in the lineup is rookie running back De'Angelo Henderson. The sixth-round draft pick averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the preseason and had shown big-play pop with a 41-yard run for a touchdown.
Henderson played in the first three regular-season games but has been a game-day inactive since Devontae Booker returned to the lineup in Week 4. Henderson has had one carry in the regular season -- it came on a failed fake punt attempt.
Since Booker returned, Henderson has been pinned behind Booker, C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles on the depth chart.
"It's been numbers. Obviously he had a great preseason, he's got a great future here, in my opinion," Joseph said. "We have three backs already dress. ... Barring injury he'll probably sit and watch."
While Garett Bolles has started at left tackle all season and cornerback Brendan Langley has had spot duty on defense, wide receiver and fellow rookie Isaiah McKenzie lost the punt returner job in recent weeks because of fumbles. Outside linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Walker has been a game-day inactive for the past five games. The rest of the Broncos' rookie class -- wide receiver Carlos Henderson (thumb), tight end Jake Butt (knee) and quarterback Chad Kelly (knee/thumb) -- is on injured reserve.
Walker could be forced into the mix Sunday against the Miami Dolphins since nose tackle Domata Peko (knee) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck) are not expected to play.