CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos offense awoke Monday, belittled, bedeviled and bereft of receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanders will miss the Los Angeles Chargers game Sunday after suffering a sprained right ankle on an awkward hit by Giants safety Landon Collins. Quarterback Trevor Siemian, meanwhile, will start despite struggling against the Giants and hurting his left shoulder.
Sanders' absence coupled with Isaiah McKenzie's injury (he's out at least a week with a low right ankle sprain) should lead to receiver Hunter Sharp's promotion from the practice squad.
Brendan Langley is the top candidate to take over on punt returns for McKenzie. Tight end Jake Butt returns to practice on Wednesday, leaving the Broncos a 21-day window to activate him. It seems unlikely he would play this week, but he told Denver7 he's encouraged by his recovery from his second ACL surgery.
"It's just about getting reps and working back in there," Butt said.
Collins apologized to Broncos players for the hit on Sanders, striking him low as he dived for an interception. The loss of Sanders creates potentially more targets for wideouts Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor.
"I see it as an opportunity, not pressure. You have to be ready to step up," Taylor said.
The Broncos have fallen from 78 percent in the red zone after two weeks to 45 percent now.
For the team to regain its form, Siemian needs to take care of the ball, while receiving help from a balanced attack. Siemian remains experienced at playing hurt, having dealt with a compromised left shoulder for roughly 10 weeks last season. Denver was unable to run the ball with any success Sunday, leading to 50 pass attempts. The Broncos are 1-6 over the past two seasons when Siemian throws at least 40 times.
"His decision making has been half. He understands he has to play better. He's a young QB still," said coach Vance Joseph, who indicated the blame is shared among coaches and players for the shortcomings. "Our formula is different. It's run and play action. We had plays, and didn't make them. We have to run football better."
Outside linebacker Shane Ray told Denver7 he will play the remainder of the season, starting at Kansas City, with two screws in his left wrist. He will wear a cast in games. The screws will be removed after the season. "I will be ready. I was ready when I got cleats on the grass. I am getting excited. I can't wait to get out there and help my team." ... The Broncos are 2-4 over their last six road games dating to last season.