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With Virgil Green out, Broncos' Jeff Heuerman has no choice but to step in and "step up"

Sam Cowhick Avatar
September 24, 2016

 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos offense is having trouble scoring; that’s is issue No. 1. But a close second and contributing factor to that is the fact that their tight end position has been at half-strength, and things aren’t getting any better in Week 3.

Virgil Green, the team’s big bruiser, jack-of-all-trades tight end has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. In his place, last year’s 92nd overall draft pick Jeff Heuerman will take his first regular-season snaps. Little-known John Phillips will also suit up again for primarily blocking purposes. Heuerman is coming off of an ankle injury himself, but will have zero time to adjust to game speed.

“Obviously it’s something that we like to do offensively. We haven’t been healthy. We’ve been suiting two guys, so we’ve had to adjust,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak stated of the position Thursday. “I think [offensive coordinator] Rick [Dennison] and the offensive coaches have done a really good job of adjusting. Now, it’s time for Jeff [Heuerman] to step up. The good news is Jeff is back.”

Green’s absence could be monumental Sunday as Heuerman looked shaky—at best—in the preseason. He will be asked to do a lot versus a physical Bengals defense and outside of that one preseason game, he has zero experience.

“Jeff can do a lot. He’s a very bright kid,” Kubiak said. “He’s capable of working on the line of scrimmage; he’s capable of beating man coverage. That’s the good thing. I think [TE John] Phillips has really helped him, too—his veteran presence. You just sit here and keep your fingers crossed for Jeff.”

Heuerman fatefully tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on the first day of rookie camp after being drafted in 2015. He worked hard to get back into shape as his fellow teammates went on to win Super Bowl 50. After a solid offseason of work and some encouraging words from his coaches, the injury bug struck again. He was limited due to multiple leg issues, but the current ankle issues have cleared up just as Green is shelved with a calf injury.

Green knows how hard his teammate has worked and has helped him with his run blocking techniques and also gave him a pep talk about how prepared he truly is before he hits the field Sunday.

“[Heuerman’s] learning a lot, using some different techniques he saw me use last week in practice this week. You can tell he really wants to go out there and is excited to show why he deserves to be in the NFL,” The Broncos top tight end said Friday. “I told him, pass game stuff is easy but run blocking and pass blocking, you got some monsters out there. I said, ‘you go against two of the best guys.’ That is my mindset. None of these guys [he will face] are as good as Von [Miller].”

Green has played in 63.6 of offensive snaps to John Phillips 24 percent. Heuerman and Phillips will likely absorb Green’s snaps evenly. Both players are nearly identical in size, but Heuerman is likely to get more passing targets from Trevor Siemian. Phillips believes the group as whole can do it all saying Friday, “I think everybody here can run block, pass catch, are big targets in the red zone.” He will be prepared to make a contribution while also being equally excited for his fellow tight end’s regular season debut.

“[Heuerman] is good to go. He’s obviously a big kid. He’s a big strong guy that can move around, has good hands, so I’m looking forward to it. I think this is his first game action, so I know he’s excited, and this organization is excited to get him out there.”

Heuerman is surely excited for Sunday as he returns close to where he last played at Ohio State, and Green’s absence will surely add to the to his opportunity to influence the game.

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