Broncos Downgrade TE Noah Fant to Out for Week 6, per Report
If you're going up against a Bill Belichick defense, you need every weapon in your arsenal. Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos, despite the 17-day gap between their last game and their Week 6 tilt at the New England Patriots, the road team will be without two key offensive weapons.
After being diagnosed with strep throat on Friday, co-starting running back and leading rusher Melvin Gordon will not travel with the team to New England. On the heels of that revelation was another that portends ominously for the Broncos.
Though he was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report, tight end Noah Fant has reportedly been downgraded to out, according to ESPN's Field Yates.
"The Broncos have downgraded TE Noah Fant and RB Melvin Gordon to OUT tomorrow vs. the Patriots," Yates tweeted on Saturday.
What it Means
The Football Gods taketh away, but also giveth. Like ships passing in the night, two studs will exit the lineup this week, but the Broncos are getting two more back.
Starting quarterback Drew Lock and co-starting running back Phillip Lindsay will be back.
While Lock is still officially listed as questionable, he was a full participant in each practice this week and met the discerning and critical approval of head coach Vic Fangio in how he looked. The Broncos released QB Blake Bortles on Saturday, telegraphing that Lock is back.
Lock and Lindsay returning should have a massive effect on the Broncos' offense and the team's confidence and swagger. Both young players affect the emotional tenor the team takes on — with Lock bringing his 'swag' and enthusiasm and Lindsay bringing that firebrand intensity.
It also helps tremendously that both Lock and Lindsay are playmakers. So, as much as it might pain fans to see the Broncos take the field at Gillette Stadium sans Fant and Gordon, the excitement over getting Lock (especially) and Lindsay back should overshadow any misgivings.
In a perfect world, the Broncos would want to take the field with every offensive arrow ready to go in Lock's quiver. This time around, the team will have to get by at less than full-strength but so it's gone for many teams in 2020, and such is football.
It'll be interesting to see if the Broncos dress rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in Fant's absence. Nick Vannett and Jake Butt figure to be the most immediate beneficiaries this week but this is Denver's chance to dress its rookie fourth-rounder for the first time.
Okwuegbunam has the rare distinction of running a faster 40-yard dash than Fant (4.49s vs. 4.50s) and with Lock back in the lineup, the two ex-Mizzou stars could reconnect for some red zone magic, perhaps, utilizing those corner routes in the end zone that so highlighted the duo's time together as Tigers.
The rookie's 6-foot-5, 258-pound frame, and his basketball-player skill-set in the red zone, could really come in handy without Fant's dynamic presence to put the Patriots on their heels somewhat inside the 20 yard-line.
The problem is, Okwuegbunam doesn't really bring special teams value to the team, which will factor into the team's decision. As much as I respect that problem, the Broncos would be remiss to pass on this opportunity to dress Albert O., especially in light of Lock's expected return.