Starters continue to disappear from the Broncos’ equation. The team’s struggling offense and its top-performing defense, respectively, will lose a player apiece. K’Waun Williams and Billy Turner are set to miss time.
Williams, who has operated as Denver’s slot cornerback since being signed in March, is slated for arthroscopic knee surgery, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. The ninth-year veteran will miss at least four weeks, making him an IR candidate. The team’s preferred option at right tackle, Turner reinjured the knee that sidelined him for much of training camp and the Broncos’ early-season action. While Nathaniel Hackett called Turner week-to-week, a Russell Wilson Instagram post would seem to indicate a much longer absence could be on tap.
The Broncos finished Sunday’s game without Turner and center Graham Glasgow, who is being called day-to-day with a shoulder injury. That forced in third-string center Luke Wattenberg, a fifth-round rookie, and third-string right tackle Quinn Bailey. Denver has not activated Tom Compton, who was set to vie for the starting right tackle gig with Turner in camp, from its PUP list yet. The team has also lost left tackle Garett Bolles for the season and has center Lloyd Cushenberry on IR. Left with starting guards and a various third-stringers at the other O-line positions by game’s end, the Broncos allowed a staggering 18 quarterback hits in their loss to the Titans.
Turner initially created a market for himself by blocking for the first of Phillip Lindsay‘s two 1,000-yard seasons in 2018. The Packers invested in the former third-round Dolphins draftee. Turner played both guard and tackle during that 2018 platform season and signed a four-year, $28MM deal with the Packers, who also used him at tackle and guard. Green Bay cut Turner this offseason, but he followed Hackett to Denver via one-year, $2.5MM contract. Turner, 31, has played in four games and started three in his second tour of duty with the Broncos.
Denver, which has used a different Week 1 right tackle starter in each of the past 10 seasons, has seen injuries foil its latest plan at the position. The Broncos have until Wednesday to activate Compton; otherwise, the veteran blocker cannot play in 2022. Compton is also on a one-year deal (worth $2.25MM). Bailey, 27, has been with the Broncos since 2019 but has only logged 90 career offensive snaps. Right tackle stands to be a need yet again for the Broncos come 2023.
Williams, 31, joined Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby in forming the Broncos’ top corner trio. But Darby is out for the season. The Broncos will likely turn to former UDFA Essang Bassey at the slot spot, Klis adds. The 49ers’ slot corner for the past five seasons, Williams has not missed any time since signing with the Broncos. Pro Football Focus rates the veteran defender just outside the top 30 among corners.
The Broncos have five IR activations remaining. Cushenberry and Randy Gregory are positioned to return this year. Safety Caden Sterns and running back Mike Boone may as well. As the injuries pile up for the disappointing team, Williams could soon factor into this IR-return picture as well.