CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Donald Stephenson wants to play. He is enjoying his best season, buoyed by staying at one position after signing with the Broncos as free agent. However, the right tackle is unlikely to face the Atlanta Falcons, according to a source, a function of both his recovery and the Broncos' schedule.
Stephenson, pictured on left above with tight end Virgil Green, practiced on a limited basis Thursday on his strained left calf, making progress after missing the past two games. However, the Broncos play two games in five days, creating pause, and making caution the more predictable path. Denver would risk losing Stephenson for the San Diego game next Thursday with soreness or even a mild setback.
Denver boasts a 15-game divisional road winning streak. They haven't lost to an AFC West opponent in a visiting park since 2011, meaning cornerback Chris Harris Jr., for example, has never suffered a divisional road loss. The optics of the San Diego game have changed, at least externally, given the expected difficulty of winning at Oakland and Kansas City this season.
Green (strained left calf) was ahead of Stephenson on his track back until Monday. Green admitted the rehab process is making him "lose" his mind. However, he too, conceded, that the Broncos' upcoming schedule and the desire to avoid a setback would play into his status with the training staff.
Even if Green and Stephenson don't play, coach Gary Kubiak said "there are no excuses" for not improving on the ground. Denver gained traction in the second half against Tampa Bay, but has yet to duplicate the performance of its first two weeks. "We have not run the ball well the last few weeks. We have to do it better. It’s an important part of who we are. We need to be more consistent." ... Outside linebacker Von Miller on how much credit his spin move goes to Dwight Freeney, whom he worked with several years ago in the offseason. "Probably 65 percent. Just being able to pick his mind. He didn't hold anything back. He really broke it down for me. He helped me out a lot with that." ... Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on how team will guarding receiver Julio Jones. "We will put three guys on him." He was joking. We think. ... The Broncos see similarities in the Falcons' offense. It is run by the hottest playcaller in the league Kyle Shanahan, son of Broncos' legendary coach Mike and a former assistant to Kubiak. ... Broncos running back C.J. Anderson remains a big baseball fan. He was talking playoffs, and talking up Madison Bumgarner's performance on Wednesday in the win over the Mets. Anderson threw out the first pitch at an Oakland game last summer. ... Cornerback Kayvon Webster didn't practice with his hamstring issue. He is the team's most valuable gunner on special teams coverage.