Without Chris Harris Jr., Broncos will again turn to a rookie

Broncos rookies are already key contributors at running back, linebacker and receiver, and cornerback Isaac Yiadom will be the latest to step in. David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Through everything that has happened to the Denver Broncos this season, one go-to move has yet to fail them.

When they've needed to solve a lineup dilemma, whether it has been caused by injury, performance or in one case, a trade of the team's longest-tenured player, they have looked to one of their dynamic rookies to solve it.

"Our young guys have performed, they've played, been prepared to play and performed when we've needed them to," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "And they've had to ... no question about that, they've had to."

With cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s fractured right fibula -- suffered in the first quarter of the Broncos' 24-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday -- forcing the three-time Pro Bowl selection out of the lineup, rookie cornerback Isaac Yiadom gets his turn.

The Broncos already have rookie running backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who are first and second on the team in rushing, and Lindsay is fourth in the league with 937 rushing yards.

Rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb is second on the team in sacks and one of 13 players in the league with at least 10.

Rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton is second on the team in receiving yards (558) and fourth on the team in receptions (28). In the wake of the Demaryius Thomas trade on Oct. 30, Sutton has played as the team's No. 2 receiver while fellow rookie wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has played as the No. 3.

Rookie linebacker Josey Jewell has started the past five games, and rookie linebacker Keishawn Bierria, a sixth-round pick, has been used on defense when Brandon Marshall (knee) and Jewell (ankle) have been injured.

"All our young guys, they've been doing what we need," veteran linebacker Von Miller said. "You could tell this group was going to work all the way back in training camp, the offseason. They're quiet and they work and we need them to now more than ever."

That's because the Broncos are not a team tossing young players into the NFL pool just to give them a chance to swim as they play out the string of a lost season. No, the Broncos' youth movement has helped the team rebound from a 3-6 record to 6-6.

Joseph said that youth has provided some needed energy and impact, even as all involved sometimes remind themselves they are rookies.

Asked after Sunday's win over the Bengals if he was ready to talk about playoff possibilities, Joseph said: "I'm not. We've won three in a row, and we've accomplished this by winning one game at a time. We're going to take things slow with this young team."

And while it hasn't always been easy over the past four games to pick up the slack left behind in Thomas' trade -- wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game since the trade with a little more attention from opposing secondaries -- making up for the loss of Harris could be more difficult.

Harris is a unique player; some personnel executives say other than a can't-miss starting quarterback, a cornerback with the ability to play as many spots in coverage at an elite level as Harris can might be one of the most difficult players to find. Harris is one of the league's best in the slot and on the outside, and he has the ability to line up at safety.

The Broncos won't ask their other starter, Bradley Roby, to play all the roles Harris did, nor will they ask Yiadom, as a rookie, to do all of that, either. But Yiadom will be asked to do more, and he will find himself matched up on an offense's primary receiver at times. He will find, as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger demonstrated two weeks on Yiadom's first snap of the game, that quarterbacks will try to test him.

Which is why Joseph said Harris' role at the moment will be to help Yiadom and the others.

"He's going to be around rehabbing and be in every meeting with us," Joseph said of Harris. "It's critical for our young [defensive backs]. He's a very, very smart football player; the things he finds in his film study, no one else finds."

Harris is ready.

"My insight, I've got a different perspective and insight of what I see compared to what a coach sees," Harris said. "I can give them that perspective and be able to help them play. ... They've just got to continue to do more. I think everybody has to do more. It's not just one person stepping up, it's everybody. It's not easy. Now guys have got to change positions.

"Guys have got to do more, learn more and pay attention to detail, because these guys are playing a lot more than they ever have now."