The sobering extent of the Denver Broncos' injury list has only added to head coach Nathaniel Hackett's mounting concerns. Constantly preaching the 'next man up' rhetoric is wearing more than a little bit thin, and Broncos Country is demanding answers in ever greater numbers.
Any in-depth reorganization of the health and fitness side of the team is certainly not going to happen overnight, though. As for the here and now, Hackett is finding out that managing an entire NFL roster is an art in itself and one that includes copious amounts of crisis management.
“It’s unbelievably unfortunate. We have great people here. We have the strength staff, the training room—everybody,” Hackett said on Friday. “Those guys have worked, and we have all looked into what we can do and how we can prevent things. Obviously, when things happen out on the field, you can’t prevent those. We are looking at it all. We have them do so many different things, from hydration tests to sleep monitoring to asking them surveys—as much as we can. Sometimes things happen, and for whatever reason, it’s happened a lot this year. It’s unfortunate, but it gives other guys opportunities to play.”
Handling an epidemic of injuries requires a deep roster and a solid practice squad. To that end, the Broncos have cycled players into their rotation with a degree of fluidity.
Unfortunately, certain position groups are getting increasingly hammered, and wide receiver, in particular, is getting extremely thin. Both Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler have been ruled out of Sunday's home tilt vs. the Las Vegas Raiders.
Coach Hackett has been doing the best he can to manage the reality of the situation. But on Friday, he admitted that the last-minute, in-game adjustments are proving to be problematic with how thin the roster has become.
“It makes you have to change a lot of things up, especially when it happens in game," Hackett said. "Those are the things you have to just figure out as many different ways, whether you have to get out of [certain] personnel or get other people up to speed in certain personnel. If it happens during the week, you can adjust a little bit earlier, like what happened with KJ. [When it’s] during the game, it’s a little bit different. That’s part of the game. Change is the norm. Things happen, and you have to be ready for that as a coach at all times.”
Catching the flak for the full ledger of problems is inescapably part and parcel of being an NFL head coach, especially one who is presiding over a massively underwhelming 3-6 team.
It's been quite a baptism of fire for any rookie head coach, but to his credit, Hackett isn't throwing any scapegoats to wolves in the interest of expediency. Using the Broncos' crippling injury toll as an excuse for losing would be a copy-and-paste answer no fan or journalist would want to hear, but Hackett seems to be a man of some fortitude, and he’s determined to keep trudging onwards.
“I haven’t gone back too much in the past because I am just worried about the now,” Hackett said. “It’s not an excuse. We have to get the guys out there to play and play winning football—whoever it is. It’s just something you have to deal with. There have been a lot.”
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!