Despite the Broncos fearing multiple severe injuries for left tackle Garett Bolles, the rookie suited up for practice on Thursday and has a chance to play against the Bills. Vance Joseph (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) said the team thought Bolles’ injury, determined to be a bruise on his lower left leg, was more serious than it ended up being. Joseph said the first-round pick is “getting better fast” but is obviously hesitant about proclaiming him ready to return to the starting lineup. Bolles has fared well in his first two games, prior to being carted off in the third quarter of the Broncos’ Week 2 win.
Bolles said he also “thought it was serious” and will not rush back. Denver’s bye comes in Week 5, so holding Bolles out for two games would make sense. But his return to practice, on a limited basis, so soon bodes well for a possible return against the Bills or Raiders before the week off.
Donald Stephenson initially received the call to replace Bolles at left tackle Sunday, but utility man Allen Barbre ended up seeing more time there. Barbre and Max Garcia were alternating at left guard, but the veteran played tackle with the Eagles at times in recent years and provides versatility if the Broncos aren’t keen on throwing Stephenson — whom they replaced at right tackle in free agency with Menelik Watson — back out there. Bolles represents the fourth left tackle starter in four seasons for the Broncos, who have also seen numerous players line up with the first-stringers on the right edge in that time.
Here’s more from the Western divisions prior to tonight’s NFC West matchup.
- Deone Bucannon‘s lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated just before Week 1, could produce the Cardinals inside linebacker returning to action in Week 3, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Bruce Arians said (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com) Bucannon’s “getting real close” to returning but would be on a snap count if he did so against the Cowboys. The Cards have used Karlos Dansby and first-rounder Haason Reddick as starters while Bucannon’s been out. Bucannon underwent surgery in May.
- Speaking of injury returns, it sounds like the Chiefs are planning to make cornerback Steven Nelson one of their IR-boomerang players. The third-year corner is eligible to come off IR in Week 9, and Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star notes that return is likely. For the time being, the Chiefs have gotten by with 2016 practice squad promotion Terrance Mitchell operating as Marcus Peters‘ top complement. However, Pro Football Focus rates Mitchell and Phillip Gaines — the former third-round pick whom Mitchell usurped late last season — as its Nos. 96 and 100 full-time cornerbacks through two games. A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson, K.C.’s primary slot defender last season.
- Do the Seahawks miss Jermaine Kearse? Seattle’s offense has largely sputtered in its first two games, and Doug Baldwin does see a hole where Kearse — traded to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson — departed. “Specifically on the football field, just the intricacies that he did in our offense, guys aren’t used to doing it, they didn’t have to do them, because Jermaine was so willing and able to do it, now guys are being called to do those things and that is another challenge for us,” Baldwin said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Paul Richardson and third-round rookie Amara Darboh are seeing more time, Richardson especially, after Kearse’s exit. Baldwin leads Seattle’s wideout contingent with 107 air yards; no other Hawks pass-catcher has 80.