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Broncos Trevor Siemian healthier, but offensive improvement starts on first down

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 18:42:48-04
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos can't run. So they can't hide from their issues on the ground. Denver has spiraled from fourth in rushing to 19th overall. Central to the problem is the start of drives. The Broncos average 4.71 yards on first down, which ranks fourth worst in the NFL. Anything less than 5 yards per attempt is considered dismal. 
 
It has led to too few plays. And too many third-and-longs.
 
"I wish I knew the answer. We were really good on first down for about three weeks. Now of all of sudden we are near the bottom," said coach Gary Kubiak, who put his team in pads on Wednesday and held a long, productive workout on Friday. "That's a big down in this league. If you aren't doing well, you are probably not making a lot of third downs. If you are not getting first downs and staying on the field, then things get out of whack."
 
The Broncos conducted painful self-analysis this week. Some feelings were hurt. The offensive line continues to struggle -- though it appears left tackle Russell Okung (concussions) will start -- and the running backs are not hitting the holes like they were for the first two weeks.
 
"We have to make plays. There are no excuses," running back C.J. Anderson said.
 
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison refused to use injuries as a reason for the slump. The Broncos missed right tackle Donald Stephenson for three weeks, but he looked rusty in his return. The Broncos inability to run has left opponents playing their safeties deep, taking away vertical routes. As a result, Denver is left dipping and dunking more than customers at Winchell's. 
 
"We need better effort from the players and coaches," Dennison said.
 
The Broncos figure to tweak their running game this week. Some outside plays could enter into the mix, and look for rookie Devontae Booker to receive additional reps after a strong showing at San Diego.
 
"He brings juice," Siemian said. 
 
All the elements are in place for Denver to rebound. The Broncos are at home, where they haven't lost consecutive games since 2011. They are 22-11-1 on Monday night in the Mile High City. And the Broncos face a Houston team which is allowing 126.3 yards per game rushing.
 
If not now, then when?
 
Footnotes
 
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware has not been ruled out, but as reported earlier, he's not playing this week. He's hopeful that he could face the Chargers on Oct. 30, but his broken right forearm might require him to wait until Nov. 6 at Oakland. Ware and Von Miller are growing out their beards in anticipation of no-shave November to raise awareness about men's health issues. ... Receiver Cody Latimer (concussion) remains behind Russell Okung in the concussion protocol, casting his availability for Monday in doubt. ... As a public service to those going to the game, prepare to stay in your seat at halftime. Linebacker Simon Fletcher, safety John Lynch and kicker Jason Elam will be elected into the Broncos Ring of Fame. 

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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.