ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – No defense in the NFL has chased, harassed and sacked quarterbacks the way the Denver Broncos’ defense has this season – they lead the league in sacks with 23 and the team is second in the league in takeaways with 17 – but the Green Bay Packers are close.
The Packers are tied for second in the league in sacks with 23 and have had nine players with at least half a sack. And that’s why what the Broncos have seen from their offensive line so far this week would be a step in the right direction, and what the Broncos have seen is the group actually working together.
For the first time since Week 3, the Broncos have now had all five players in their starting offensive line participate at least some in back-to-back practices. The group worked together Monday when the Broncos returned from a bye and worked together again Wednesday as well.
And coach Gary Kubiak continues to maintain that if the Broncos can find some continuity in the offensive front, it would go a long way to repairing some of the offense’s shortcomings.
“Hopefully we get some of these guys up front consistently playing; that will be key to our improvement," Kubiak said following Wednesday’s practice.
Left tackle Ty Sambrailo, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ Week 3 victory over the Detroit Lions, has practiced this week and is poised to return to the lineup against the Packers if things continue to go well this week.
The decision about whether or not Sambrailo will play Sunday, or how much, will likely be made from what the team sees in Thursday’s practice, as that will be the only day this week the Broncos practice in pads.
“He did good [Wednesday]," Kubiak said. “[Thursday] will be a big test for him, full speed [Thursday], we’ll be in pads ([Thursday], he’ll get his one-on-one, he’ll get his banging, so it’s a big test for him tomorrow if he’s going to be able to come back and go. So far, so good."
Guard Evan Mathis, who has played in every game thus far but missed significant practice time with a hamstring injury, has practiced this week, as has guard Louis Vasquez, who has missed some practice time with some knee pain.
Through the bye week, at least some of the Broncos’ troubles in pass protection and the run game could be traced to the fact the team’s line had practiced together just two days in a four-week span.
So, any additional work the group can get this week would help in Sunday’s matchup against a Packers defense that is versatile, moves linebacker Clay Matthews all over the formation and is still getting a top-tier effort from Julius Peppers.
Or as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning put it: "[Packers defensive coordinator] Dom Capers has been around for a long time; he does it all. ... He moves Matthews all around ... He gets Peppers in a lot of one-on-one matchups and he has great cover guys, he's not afraid to put them out there one-on-one, bump-and-run and let them play a lot of tight coverage."