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Dalton Risner hurts shoulder, might miss Chiefs game

Battery of Broncos should return, including Fant, Bouye
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Posted at 8:57 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 22:58:00-04

DENVER — Left guard Dalton Risner missed the second half of Sunday's game, a testament to the pain he felt in his shoulder.

He underwent an MRI Monday morning, an exam that he felt good about.

"Hoping for positive things," Risner told Denver7 after the Broncos' 18-12 victory over the Patriots. "I am always optimistic. This hurt way worse than any pig wrestling match hurt me."

Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Monday that the results were inconclusive, leaving them waiting for more information on Risner and punt returner Diontae Spencer (clavicle).

While the status of Risner and Spencer remains in doubt, several other players are poised to return. That lengthy list includes tight end Noah Fant (high ankle sprain), cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder), receiver K.J. Hamler (hamstring), and defensive linemen Dre'Mont Jones (knee) and DeMarcus Walker (calf).

Adding Fant to the offense cannot be overstated. He flourished with Drew Lock last season, and could help a team that desperately needs a boost on third down. Pairing Fant with rookie Albert Okwuegbunam, who had two catches for 45 yards in his debut Sunday, creates the potential of creating mismatches for the Chiefs.

Fant boasts 19 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Okwuegbunam had two drops, but was targeted six times against the Patriots.

"I am highly encouraged by what I saw,” Fangio said. "I think it was a good start."

The Chiefs are a primary reason the Broncos drafted Jerry Jeudy and Hamler in the first two rounds. Jeudy owns 17 catches for 266 yards. Hamler, who has dealt with hamstring issues since the NFL combine in February, has six receptions for 78 yards. The pair brings unique speed, modeled after the Chiefs "Star Wars" offense as Fangio coined it.

Bouye would provide experience and talent to a secondary that delivered its best game of the season in the upset of New England.

Justin Simmons posted eight tackles and deflected a pass that led to Bryce Callahan's interception. Cornerback Michael Ojemudia added seven tackles and Kareem Jackson had six. Bouye has not played since the first half of the opener, injuring his shoulder as he dived defending a pass. If he returns to his starting role, the Broncos could leave Ojemudia opposite of him with Callahan at slot and De'Vante Bausby available for sub-packages.

As for Risner, he was one of the NFL's top rookie offensive linemen last season. Austin Schlottman played the second half in Risner's absence, logging 32 snaps. He will start if Risner is unable to go against the Chiefs. The Broncos offensive line has undergone changes this season, with struggling right tackle Elijah Wilkinson replaced by DeMar Dotson the past two games after fracturing his shin.

Denver has been physical upfront the past two weeks, boasting back-to-back 100-yard rushers in Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay. Fangio said the plan is use the two together with Gordon expected to return when the team resumes practice Wednesday.

Denver ranks in the bottom third in rushing, but improved from 92.5 to 101 yards per game after Sunday's impressive outing.

The road to a potential upset of the Chiefs remains on the ground. Entering Monday's game against the Bills, the Chiefs are yielding 157.6 rushing yards per game, second worst in the NFL.

Bortles is back

Blake Bortles time in Denver is not over. After cutting the veteran last week, the Broncos re-signed Bortles to their practice squad Monday morning, according to a source. Bortles was brought in as protection if Drew Lock faced an extended absence. Lock returned last Sunday, and Brett Rypien beat out Bortles for the backup spot, leading Bortles dispatched before taking a snap. He impressed during his short stay, however, and could be in the mix for a reserve role either this season or next year.

The Broncos guaranteed Jeff Driskel's contract when the season began, so he will likely remain on the team for now, though he could be inactive on gameday as he was against the Patriots.