All Kendall Hinton could do as he limped through the Broncos’ locker room late Sunday afternoon was shake his head.
Another injury for a Broncos offensive player at the end of another game full of them. Another hamstring issue for a team riddled by them.
Hinton hurt his hamstring trying to plant and cut on the Broncos’ penultimate drive during a 34-28 loss to Kansas City. He attempted to get open for backup quarterback Brett Rypien, who was forced into duty after Russell Wilson sustained a concussion.
This is the way it’s gone for Denver this year. Injuries are certainly not the only reason the team finds itself 3-10 and is eliminated from playoff contention. But this rate of attrition is also not normal. The Broncos rate as among the most injured teams in the NFL by several metrics, including players in injured reserve (15), salary cap dollars on IR ($56.8 million currently, per Over The Cap) and man games lost (tied for third at 191 entering Sunday’s games, according to one service).
“It’s part of the game. People get injured. For us, it’s happened a lot more than usual,” head coach Nathaniel Hackett said last week. “We have to get the next guy ready. … It’s not an excuse because you still have to win the game.”
Hinton was supposed to be a depth piece for this team. He didn’t make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp and was on the practice squad until mid-October.
He took advantage of the early rash of injuries at receiver, turning himself into a key cog in the Broncos’ offense. Since Denver’s bye week, he’s played 88.4% of the team’s offensive snaps, most among receivers after Courtland Sutton suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter Dec. 4 at Baltimore.
Now both could miss more action going forward.
“We’re going to take that day-by-day when it comes to (Sutton’s) status,” Hackett said Monday, adding later that they’re still evaluating the severity of Hinton’s injury. … “With it being a hamstring, those things are different for everybody..”
KJ Hamler is already on injured reserve with a hamstring injury originally suffered in practice coming out of the bye week during preparations for a Week 10 game against Tennessee. He neared a return but aggravated the muscle doing rehab work before Denver’s Week 13 trip to Baltimore and has been shut down for the season.
If Hinton doesn’t play against Arizona, he’ll be the 12th Bronco to miss a game due to a hamstring injury this year. The entire, grisly list: Fellow receivers Sutton, Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland, Wilson, tight ends Greg Dulcich and Andrew Beck, linebackers Jonathon Cooper and Dakota Allen, defensive backs Essang Bassey and Darrius Phillips and offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz. That group has missed a combined 33 games so far, Hamler will miss the final four and Sutton, Beck, Allen and now Hinton could push the number higher.
Just as lengthy as the hamstring injury list is Denver’s offensive lineup. In fact, every one of the Broncos preferred offensive starters this year has missed at least one game with injury. Tim Patrick never made it out of camp after suffering a torn ACL on Aug. 2 and Sutton, Hamler and Jerry Jeudy (ankle) have missed time. When Dalton Risner missed Sunday’s game against Kansas City, it made all five of Denver’s starters up front to miss at least a game. Javonte Williams was lost in Week 4 to a knee injury, Mike Boone spent four weeks on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain and suffered another against the Chiefs. Melvin Gordon, who only became a starter after Williams’ injury, was healthy and available until he was cut after his fifth fumble. Dulcich, the rookie from UCLA, missed the first five weeks of the season and since has established himself as one of the go-to receiving options in the Denver offense.
The only players who have taken an offensive snap in all 13 of the Broncos games this year are tight end Eric Tomlinson and Eric Saubert and even Saubert was limited to one snap Week 6 against the Chargers with a quad issue.
“It’s the next man up,” Hackett said. “A lot of guys are getting some great experience and I give those guys credit for getting themselves ready to go out there and play.”