In the midst of a playoff run in the difficult American Football Conference, the Denver Broncos hopes took a major blow. On Wednesday, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles on a non-contact drill and has been ruled out for the rest of the season. As Case Keenum’s primary target on third downs, the Broncos will have to rely on more rookies as they hope to make the playoffs this season.
For the year, Sanders was having a monster season. In 12 games he led the Broncos in receiving, catching 71 passes for 868 yards. He averaged 12.2 yards per reception. His stellar play allowed the Broncos to trade away veteran Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans at the trade deadline. Now they will be without Sanders for the rest of the season and possibly the beginning of next season, should surgery be necessary.
To fill the void, rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will now be slotted as the primary catchers. Tim Patrick and River Cracraft will be the backups. To add depth, Denver claimed Andre Holmes off waivers shortly after Sanders’ injury. Sutton has been effective but not to the same level that Sanders was at. For the year he has 28 catches for 558 yards and three touchdowns, and leads the league in yards-per-catch with 19.9 yards. Hamilton has seen limited action thus far, catching five passes for 61 yards. Holmes was added since he is very familiar with Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave’s system, as he played for him in 2016 while Musgrave was Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders. Keenum and company will have to make quick work to have their game plan ready when they face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
With the primary receiving target out, rookie running back Phillip Lindsay should benefit and see plenty of hand-offs in the coming games. Lindsay is having an amazing rookie season, rushing for 937 yards and eight touchdowns. Lindsay has been part of the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion along with the New York Giants Saquon Barkley, and should be able to pad his numbers with a new emphasis on the running attack. Another rookie, running back Royce Freeman, should also plenty more carries in the coming weeks. Clearly, Keenum’s leadership will come center stage as he leads an offense made up primarily of first-year players.
The injury to Emmanuel Sanders is a huge blow for the Denver Broncos and comes at the worst time of the year. However, this team team has shown lots of grit and fight as they have battled injuries all season. I look for Denver to overcome this latest setback, and still fight to the bitter end for their spot in the playoffs.