When the Denver Broncos ride into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the crowd won’t be fearful of the man wearing number 18 on his back. The Cleveland Browns fans will be thinking about the Denver defense. Peyton Manning has proven he’s a mere mortal. He will need the supporting cast of the Broncos defense to help him walk into the sunset with a victory.
The Denver Broncos have surprised the football universe. They stand alone at the top of the AFC West. At 5-0 they remain one of only five teams that haven’t been beaten. The nearest threat to the Broncos is the Chargers and they are experiencing more than a few issues themselves.
That job used to belong to Manning. Each week the Broncos have seen his skills fade farther into the background. The games aren’t so much about watching Peyton throw a perfectly placed, tight spiral anymore. Fans sit on their hands and anticipate a big play from the defense that has given Denver five wins.
But there is a chink in the Broncos defensive armor.
The Broncos are still awaiting word on DeMarcus Ware. He went down with a back injury against the Oakland Raiders in week 5. He had to be taken off the field on a cart. In the world of football, the cart is always the last thing you want to see coming onto the field.
As the week went on, the Broncos got a better idea of the severity of Ware’s injury. He hasn’t been ruled out of the Brows game, but the Broncos are preparing for the battle without him. It’s been reported by Mike Klis, from 9NEWS in Denver, that Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak will insert second year linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Kubiak said OLB Shaq Barrett will start— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) October 15, 2015
Kubiak revealed part of the Broncos’ plan in a statement provided by the Bleacher Report.
“If DeMarcus is unable to play, I think that they’re [Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray] excited to go out there and be a part of what’s going on. They have been, but now they get a chance to be a bigger part. As a player, all you can do is ask for an opportunity and work for your opportunities, and they’ve been working.” Kubiak emphasized, “We have a lot of confidence in them.”
In the NFL draft earlier this year, the Broncos did something they had never done under general manager John Elway. They moved up in the first round so they could select a defensive player. That man was Missouri linebacker Shane Ray.
The Broncos took Ray because of his speed and tenacious attitude. His first step is quick and gets him around the blockers and into the backfield. When he’s playing, he can cause tons of problems for the offensive line. He’s been talking to Von Miller and Ware to get pointers on his pass rushing skills. Sunday, he and Barrett will be the Broncos’ main men as they tangle with the Browns’ No. 7 ranked offense. Josh McCown is expected to start and they need to put pressure on him. Getting in McCown’s face will be the prime directive for the Broncos defense to shine.
DeMarcus Ware may not be starting this game for the Broncos, but the heart and soul of the defense will have to dig deep to win one for Broncos Country.
[Feature Photo by Doug Pensinger / Getty Images]