CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- When the Broncos drafted Jeff Heuerman in 2015, they anticipated a big impact in an offense suited for tight ends. But despite standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 252 pounds, he remains invisible. The highly-touted prospect and one-time junior hockey star has yet to play a single regular-season snap.
Heuerman is set to make his NFL debut in Cincinnati and John Phillips will start at a position that has become a concern with Virgil Green ruled out. Green failed to practice this week because of a left calf injury and did not make enough progress to remain a game-time decision. Green, right tackle Donald Stephenson (left calf) and DeMarcus Ware (right forearm) won't travel this week as they rehab their injuries, according to coach Gary Kubiak.
"Obvioulsy, I am still feeling it a little bit. After this weekend, I will do some things and that's my goal to play next week," Green said. "After I do come back from this, I want to do some precautionary things so it doesn't linger. I hate dealing with this."
Stephenson told Denver7 there's no certainty he will play next week at Tampa Bay. He is walking around, but the Broncos could take a cautious route to avoid losing him for a longer period of time.
"I am hopeful. But we will see. I don't know yet," Stephenson said. "I want to get out there because we are playing so well as a line."
With Green and Stephenson absent, the Broncos will need significant contributions from Phillips and Heuerman. Phillips boasts a reputation as a good blocker. He could be used to help Ty Sambrailo at right tackle -- that's my educated guess on who starts -- because the former CSU star missed the preseason with a hyperextended right elbow and has never played an NFL snap at the position. Sambrailo won't be on a play count, but there could be a rotation on some series with Michael Schofield seeing time at tackle with Darrion Weems at guard.
Heuerman remains intriguing. He's a huge target. But what does he bring? Former college teammate Bradley Roby provided insight.
"He's a good pass catcher. He has good hands. And he should help the run game for sure," Roby said. "He did that really well for (Ohio State coach) Urban. He should be a good outlet for Trevor (Siemian)."
Green believes Heuerman is ready. Green told him he won't face anyone better in pass protection than Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
"And Jeff's not a guy who worries too much," Green said. "Run blocking and pass blocking, you have some monsters out there who are aggressive. But he's played against the best guys in practice. That helps with dealing with it."
Phillips has 45 catches in seven seasons, including 10 last season with San Diego.
"I am ready to do whatever they ask of me," Phillips said.