Against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, Brian Dawkins injured his neck.
Since then, the veteran safety has missed three games — including last week’s 29-23 win in the Wild Card round of the playoffs — and was absent from the majority of a fourth game when he left the Buffalo contest in Week 16 in the first quarter.
But Head Coach John Fox said Wednesday that there is some positive news.
“He’s way further along this week than he was last week, and we’ll play it by ear,” Fox said of Dawkins. “When he gets cleared medically, we’ll have him out there.”
Dawkins (neck) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice, and neither did Eric Decker (knee) and Lonie Paxton (personal).
David Bruton (Achilles), Daniel Fells (ankle) and Elvis Dumervil (ankle) had limited participation, and Von Miller (thumb) participated fully in the session, which was moved indoors due to snow.
Fox was asked about those players’ injuries after practice.
“As the head coach, they all concern you, and hopefully we’ll be 100 percent healthy come Saturday,” he said. “We’ll have to be day-to-day, and we’ll see.”
If Decker can’t play in this weekend’s Divisional round matchup with the New England Patriots, Fox said he’s confident in his fellow receivers to step up, including Matthew Willis — who has “made big plays in big spots all season” — and D’Andre Goodwin, who was signed to the active roster from the practice squad on Tuesday.
“He’s got outstanding deep speed,” Fox said of Goodwin. “He has good quickness in and out of breaks. We thought enough of him to bring him back, albeit on the practice squad. I don’t like calling it the practice squad. It’s more of a developmental squad. He has shown good development.”
Needless to say, the head coach is confident in his club no matter who is able to take the field on Saturday.
“We’ve been next-man-up all season regardless of the position,” he said. “That’s no different for our preparation for New England.”
TALENTED TIGHT END TANDEM
When the Patriots defeated the Broncos in Week 15, New England’s tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined to grab 13 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown.
“I think we’ve got to have a better plan of who our matchups are, where those matchups are and how we’re going to defend them,” Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen said Wednesday.
He called Gronkowski a “big, physical matchup issue,” and described Hernandez as “really like a wide receiver.”
Part of the reason the two are such tough matchups — in addition to their skill — is the way the Patriots utilize them.
New England thrives by forcing the defense’s hand with different personnel packages.
“I think it puts a lot of pressure on all of us,” Allen said. “They really make you work as far as how are you going to match up with the different players. You can’t take that for granted because you don’t want to get in situation where you get mismatches, because when you do, they take advantage of it. We had a few of those in the game the last time, but a few of those happened because we made mistakes. That’s part of the issue when you try to get the perfect matchup, sometimes the guys get out of position. They are not sure where exactly they’re supposed to be or who they are supposed to be covering. We have to clean a lot of that stuff up, and if we do, I think we’ll have a chance in this game.”
Allen knows slowing down the tight ends will go a long way toward Denver’s success in the Divisional round.
“We’ve got a good plan for how we’re going to handle it, and we’ll see how it plays out on Saturday night,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we could have gone outside, but I don’t know that our focus would have been as good as it was in that dome today,” Fox said. “That’s why we decided to go there instead of outdoors.”
But that doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t carry momentum from their thrilling, 29-23 victory last Sunday into this weekend’s contest in New England.
“We had a good week of practice last week, and then went into the Pittsburgh game and had a good team effort,” he said. “You saw the results that we got, so now we have to build off of that. It’s going to be the same philosophy as every week. Just continue to get better. The best team at the end wins it.”
“I think it’s him being more comfortable with us now since he’s been playing with us for a while,” said Thomas, who caught four passes for 204 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Pittsburgh. “He’s just throwing the ball on time and getting a chance to make plays. I feel like every ball I caught in the game was on point. It was in my stride. I feel like he’s getting more comfortable and not worrying about who’s in what spot and where people are supposed to be.”
NEW ENGLAND INJURY REPORT
The Broncos’ injury report was detailed above. Here is the full report from the Patroits’ practice on Wednesday.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DL Kyle Love (not injury related)
LIMITED: CB Kyle Arrington (foot), S Patrick Chung (foot), C Dan Connolly (groin), WR Julian Edelman (back), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), T Matt Light (ankle), G Logan Mankins (knee), CB Devin McCourty (shoulder), LB Rob Ninkovich (hip), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot), WR Wes Welker (knee) and LB Tracy White (abdomen)
FULL: QB Tom Brady (left shoulder)
Below are photos from Wednesday’s practice.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Brian Dawkins, D'Andre Goodwin, Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen, Demaryius Thomas, Divisional Round, Head Coach John Fox, Matthew Willis, New England Patriots, Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Tebow