ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos are hurting in the trenches as they try to halt their longest losing skid since the AFL-NFL merger.
Coach Vance Joseph on Friday ruled right guard Ronald Leary (back) out for a second straight week. He also didn’t appear optimistic that nose tackle Domata Peko (knee) would return to the lineup after seeing his 123-game starting streak come to an end last week.
Joseph said guard Connor McGovern will fill in for Leary again Sunday as he makes his second career start when the Broncos (3-9) host the New York Jets (5-7).
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”It’s a back and you know those are tricky,” Joseph said. ”He wants to go. He’s been trying to go for two weeks. It’s just slow getting better.”
Peko returned to practice Friday but was moving at half speed.
”He’s coming along. If he can go, he will go for us,” Joseph said. ”He’s a little sore still.”
Also, defensive end Adam Gotsis missed Friday’s workout after becoming the latest Bronco to get hit hard by a flu bug that has been working its way through the locker room for two weeks.
”He’s the last guy in our D-line room to get it, so he should be fine on Sunday with fluids and washing his hands,” Joseph said. ”That’s what I said last week and it worked, right? Fluids, washing hands, rest. I’ll get him right. Dr. V.J.”
The Broncos are still looking for a cure for their more than two-month funk in which they’ve lost by double digits seven times, falling to the cellar of the middling AFC West, where every other team is 6-6.
Next week the Broncos visit the Colts (3-9) in what could prove the worst Thursday night matchup of the season.
”I get the concerns with the Thursday night games. Guys are playing hard on Sunday and have got three days’ rest to play a game on Thursday,” Joseph said. ”But in my opinion, it’s a chance to win two games in five days. That’s what our team is focused on. So, we know we’re going to be a little sore out there. But we’ll get them back in here Monday and have a chance to recover and treat those guys and be smart in practice and play again on Thursday.”
McKENZIE MESS: Embattled special teams coach Brock Olivo said rookie punt returner Isaiah McKenzie needs to take his second benching to heart.
Joseph said this week that Jordan Taylor will return punts the rest of the year after McKenzie returned from a two-game benching only to fumble for the sixth time – this time into the end zone for a safety at Miami last week.
”It can only be a learning experience for Isaiah and he has to take it like that,” Olivo said Friday. ”He can’t get down on himself and he can’t be bitter. He has to take it as a challenge and as an awakening in a sense. He’ll react positively. I know he will.”
Denver’s special teams foibles go way beyond McKenzie’s muffs after he was handed the job early in training camp while competition continued at other positions, notably quarterback.
The Broncos’ many miscues in Miami included surrendering an onside kick when trailing by 24 in the fourth quarter.
”You’re always ready for it,” Olivo said. ”In fact, our guys were in position. We have to attack the ball there. We have to do a much better job at attacking the ball and not hesitating. With a score like that, it could happen anytime. This is the NFL. Guys want to stick a dagger in your heart and they’ll do that, so you have to be ready for it.”
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