The news that Javon Walker would undergo surgery on Friday only exacerbated the Broncos’ injury concerns. While their daily practice report only bore four names on Thursday, it was accentuated by a growing injured-reserve list that expanded to included tight end Stephen Alexander.
Among first-teamers on the depth chart, the Broncos have seen their players collectively miss 19 man-games already this season because of various injuries. (Wide receiver Rod Smith is included here because at the time of his hip-debridement procedure in February, he was the most recent starter at his position, having started all 16 games in 2006.) Smith, Ben Hamilton and Ebenezer Ekuban have each missed all five games to date, meaning they collectively have 15 man-games missed among them.
But with Ekuban, Tom Nalen and Hamilton lost for the season and on injured reserve, you can add a total of 33 games — 11 apiece — to create their tally of missed games at the end of the year. That means the Broncos will absorb a minimum of 52 man-games missed among first-teamers this season.
How does that compare with recent years? It’s well above average — and that’s precisely the kind of “above-average” every team endeavors to avoid. Let’s peel back and look at the years of numbers I have on my bookshelf here at the home office …
2001: Broncos starters missed a total of 29 man-games to injury. Most of these belonged to wide receiver Ed McCaffrey (15 games), whose season ended on Monday Night Football in Week 1, and running back Terrell Davis, who missed games 2-7 and then sat out a pair of November games before returning for the final five games (in spite of the problematic pain in his knees, Davis nevertheless averaged 87.6 rushing yards per game and never gained fewer than 70 yards in any contest in which he played that year. Also among the starters sidelined at various points were guards Lennie Friedman and Dan Neil (one game apiece), wide receiver Rod Smith (one game), quarterback Brian Griese (one game) and defensive end Kavika Pittman (two games).
2002: Denver’s starters combined for 16 man-games missed, most belonging to Nalen (nine games). Shannon Sharpe missed three games after suffering a dislocated elbow that took place when Bill Romanowski slammed him into the INVESCO Field at Mile High grass on MNF. Brian Griese sat out two games with injuries (he also did not play in Week 17 after being supplanted by Steve Beuerlein), while Mike Anderson and safety Izell Reese each missed a game apiece. Kenoy Kennedy also sat out one game owing to a league suspension.
2003: The confluence of injuries at key areas hit the Broncos hard as they absorbed 45 man-games missed during the regular season because of injuries. Eighteen of those belonged to outside linebackers Ian Gold and John Mobley, whose seasons ended in a 14-day span of October. (Mobley would never play again.) Quarterbacks Jake Plummer and his fill-in starter, Steve Beuerlein, missed four and two games, respectively, with Beuerlein going on injured reserve after fracturing a pinky finger. (For purposes of this exercise, the only man-games that count as missed starts for Beuerlein are the ones that came before Plummer returned to the lineup.) Finally, both Kelly Herndon and Nick Ferguson missed the regular-season finale with injuries suffered in the Week 16 playoff-clinching win at Indianapolis; Herndon played in the wild-card redux with the Colts two weeks later, while Ferguson was on injured reserve. (NOTE: The figures do not take into account players who were healthy scratches for the regular-season finale at Green Bay.)
2004: Broncos starters missed 21 man-games, with two-thirds of them belonging to defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who played in the regular-season opener and finale, but never at any other time. Running back Quentin Griffin missed one game as a starter because of an ankle injury; by the time he healed, the job belonged to Reuben Droughns. Kyle Johnson, who was promoted to first-team fullback after Droughns switched to tailback, missed a pair of games, while John Lynch (one game) and Dan Neil (three games) also missed time.
2005: Remarkably, the starting XI for the offense remained healthy throughout the 13-3 season as Denver starters combined for just eight man-games missed because of injuries, all on defense. Half of the man-games missed belonged to Darrent Williams, but he still played in 12 regular-season games and in the postseason. Courtney Brown, Al Wilson and Champ Bailey also had brief injury-caused absences.
2006: Incorporating a few players who’d either worked their way to the top of the official depth chart (Adam Meadows) or just to a starter’s assignment (Chad Mustard), the Broncos saw their starters combine for 43 man-games missed. Most belonged to defensive end Courtney Brown (all 16 games) and offensive tackle Matt Lepsis (10 games), while Darrent Williams, Gerard Warren, Tatum Bell, Kyle Johnson and Nick Ferguson also missed some on-field time.
So even if the Broncos remain completely healthy the rest of the season, they will see their starters miss more man-games this year than any other in the last five. This doesn’t even factor in the coming loss of Walker, nor does it account for the loss of potentially valuable reserve contributors such as Hamza Abdullah (who had limited participation in practice Thursday), Stephen Alexander (now on injured reserve) and Nate Jackson (who started against San Diego).
Tags: Injury report