The Broncos will have a trio of veterans returning to help a struggling defense.
Outside linebacker Frank Clark (hip), safety Justin Simmons (hip) and inside linebacker Josey Jewell (hip) are expected to play against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.
All three players were full participants at practice on Friday.
Meanwhile, running back Javonte Williams (quad), defensive tackle Mike Purcell (ribs) and center Lloyd Cushenberry III (quad) are questionable. Williams was listed as a full participant after not practicing on Wednesday and being limited on Thursday.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was limited on Wednesday with a knee injury, but has practiced in full since then.
If Williams is unable to go, the Broncos will roll with running backs Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin and Dwayne Washington. Against the Bears, McLaughlin, an undrafted rookie, had the best performance by any Denver running back this season. He had 104 total yards and a receiving touchdown. Perine has recorded 25 rushing yards in the last three games after recording 41 yards on eight carries in Week 1.
The Broncos, who have one of the worst defenses statistically in the league, badly needed the return of Simmons, Jewell and Clark. Jewell missed last week’s game at Chicago and Simmons has been sidelined since Week 2’s loss to the Washington. Second-year safety Delarrin Turner-Yell started in Simmons’ place. Denver has allowed the third-most passing yards in the league (285.5 yards per game) while opposing quarterbacks have a 133.4 passer rating.
Clark, who hasn’t played since Week 1, makes his return after the Broncos traded veteran outside linebacker Randy Gregory to the San Francisco 49ers. The Broncos are committed to young edge rushers Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper, so it’s unclear how much playing time Clark will get against the Jets.
Clark, who was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, said he started running at 90% last week. He added that on Wednesday he took a major step by feeling the weight of the pads from other players.
“You gotta feel guys pushing on you and redirecting before you truly know,” Clark said.
Broncos looking to fix miscommunication: In the first half of Denver’s win over Chicago, the defense looked broken and out of sync, as quarterback Justin Fields had open targets early and often.
Tight end Cole Kmet slipped past linebacker Alex Singleton while Turner-Yell looked lost in the end zone, and caught a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, wide receiver D.J. Moore ran down the sideline all alone before making a 24-yard catch.
That has been a constant problem for the unit this season and Turner-Yell believes the mishaps on defense are caused by miscommunication more than scheme.
“We have to be able to adjust to motion and be a step ahead of the offense,” Turner-Yell said. “We can’t beat ourselves before the ball is snapped and I feel like that’s what we were doing in the first half (against Chicago).”
Turner-Yell said the message at halftime was to get players to buy into what they are trying to do as a defense.
“Whenever we are having those mental errors, it’s because guys are not really locked in,” Turner-Yell said. “In the second half, we were on one page and looked completely different.”
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said having veteran players like Simmons and Jewell back on the field should help correct the miscommunication problems, but added that “you expect whoever plays to do their job.”
“You don’t want it to happen, but you correct them quickly,” Joseph said.