This is a challenging time for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
They are coming off their first defeat of the season. They are playing this week without their head coach. Their young quarterback is still banged up and is questionable to play after missing last Sunday’s game.
Oh, and they’re playing on a short week.
Trevor Siemian has answered all his challenges in his unlikely rise as a starting quarterback. Thursday night, at San Diego, Siemian must continue to show the poise that has carried him to early starting success.
But it won’t be easy. Siemian said this week he expects to play against the Chargers with a shoulder injury that caused him to leave a Week 4 win at Tampa Bay and kept him out of a home loss to Atlanta on Sunday. He is officially listed as questionable although several reports Thursday morning said he will play.
If Siemian plays, he will have to do so with his head coach on the field. Gary Kubiak fell ill after the Atlanta loss and is resting this week. The Broncos believe he will be back next week. Denver special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is taking over Kubiak’s duties for the game.
Kubiak works closely with the quarterback, so there will be of an emphasis on Siemian to communicate with passing game coordinator Greg Knapp during the game.
A big key against the Chargers for Siemian will be to get protection. Rookie Paxton Lynch was sacked six times against Atlanta. Siemian has enough to worry about. He doesn’t need to be running for his life either as Denver tries to avoid back-to-back defeats.
Below is the rest of the Week 2 All-Williamson 22 unit. This is not an all-star team, but is a list of key players at each position this week:
Quarterback: Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos: See above.
Running back: Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks want to see more consistency from Michael on Sunday against the visiting Falcons. Michael had 106 yards against San Francisco in Week 3 and then had 58 yards against the Jets in Week 4. The Seahawks had a bye in Week 5. They hope Michael can revert to the player who broke the 100-yard barrier against the Falcons.
Running back: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: The Packers’ offense has been a bit off. They need Lacy to control the ball on the ground and keep the Dallas Cowboys’ talented offense off the field as much as possible on Sunday.
Wide receiver: Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers’ top receiver hasn’t made much of an impact. One of the reasons why was that former starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert had a difficult time getting the ball down field. New (and old) 49ers’ starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a stronger arm and may be able to better take advantage of Smith’s speed Sunday at Buffalo.
Wide receiver: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots: Tom Brady’s favorite receiver had just 35 yards receiving in Brady’s season debut last week. Look for Brady to try to get Edelman more involved in the offense at home against Cincinnati.
Tight end: Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks: Graham looks like the vintage Graham again. In the past two games, he had a total of 12 catches for 213 yards. He looks like the player the Seahawks acquired from the Saints. Let’s see if it lasts.
Left tackle: Branden Albert, Miami Dolphins: He is expected to be back after missing two games. The Dolphins badly need him against the Steelers. Their offensive line has been awful.
Left guard: Joe Thuney, New England Patriots: The rookie has been playing very well and he should have extra motivation blocking for Brady.
Center: Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons: Scouts love the way Mack is playing. He is the beginning point of an explosive offense.
Right guard: Michael Schofield, Denver Broncos: The Broncos’ offensive line struggled badly against the Falcons. Schofield has to set the tone for improvement against the Chargers.
Right tackle: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Philadelphia Eagles: The fifth-round pick from TCU is taking over for the suspended Lane Johnson. Whether Vaitai can keep the job for 10 weeks is another story. Starting Sunday at Washington, fellow rookie Carson Wentz sure hopes so.
Defensive end: Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets: The Jets hit Ben Roethlisberger just once in a loss Sunday. They must do a better job Monday night at Arizona.
Defensive tackle: Javon Hargrave, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Dolphins’ offensive line is a mess. Hargraves needs to set the tone for the Steelers’ interior push.
Defensive tackle: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals: Atkins is one of the Bengals’ best players. If they have a chance to slow down Brady, it starts with Atkins.
Defensive end: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers: Bosa, the No. 3-overall pick, had his NFL debut at Oakland. He was terrific. He had 2 sacks and he was all over the field. The Broncos need to be ready for him on Thursday night.
Outside linebacker: Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons: The 2015 first-round pick had 5.5 sacks in his first 20 NFL games. He had 3.5 sacks against Denver. Which Beasley will we see at Seattle?
Middle linebacker: Zach Orr, Baltimore Ravens: Orr has been a solid player all year. The Ravens need him to play well at the New York Giants as Baltimore tries to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Outside linebacker: Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo Bills: Alexander is a remarkable story. In his first nine NFL seasons (mostly as a special teamer) Alexander had 9 sacks total. This season, Alexander has a league-leading 7 sacks in five games. Simply wild.
Cornerback: Morris Claiborne, Dallas Cowboys: Claiborne is coming into his own and is playing well. He was great against Cincinnati. The Cowboys need him to be great against Aaron Rodgers.
Safety: Eric Weddle, Baltimore Ravens: Weddle is having a terrific season, his first with the Ravens since coming over from San Diego as a free agent.
Safety: Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders: He has started since Week 3, and the first-round pick is showing a penchant for being a playmaker. The Oakland defense is still lacking, but Joseph is someone to watch in a key AFC West game against Kansas City.
Cornerback: Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants: Jenkins signed a big-dollar deal with the Giants in free agency. It is paying off. He’s been top-notch.