ENGLEWOOD - If the Denver Broncos continue to run the ball as poorly as they have the past two weeks, their losing streak might continue far longer than two games.
Denver has 93 yards rushing the past two weeks combined. The Broncos have a good excuse — Baltimore and Pittsburgh are two of the best run defenses in the NFL. But they will try to rebound despite some flux along the offensive line.
The Broncos appear set to replace longtime starting left guard Ben Hamilton with veteran backup Russ Hochstein. Hochstein took the first-team repetitions during the open period of practice Wednesday. Hamilton is the longest-tenured Broncos player by three years, and has never come off the bench in the 103 NFL games he has played in. Hochstein would have his hands full — he’ll spend plenty of time against Washington tackle Albert Haynesworth, one of the best in the NFL.
Denver also will likely be without right tackle Ryan Harris, who has a toe injury. Coach Josh McDaniels said Harris probably won’t practice this week, but didn’t want to rule him out yet.
Whoever is playing, the Broncos are confident the run game will rebound.
“We haven’t lost faith in our ability to run the ball, or play good offense here,” McDaniels said.
Correll Buckhalter started at tailback over rookie Knowshon Moreno on Monday, but McDaniels said that was not a performance-based decision. Neither back has played well lately, and the entire offense has been to blame for the lack of a running game.
“It just boils down to execution,” Buckhalter said. “It’s a matter of everybody doing their job.”
Orton knows the offense’s need for big plays
Quarterback Kyle Orton agrees with plenty of Broncos fans: There needs to be more big plays from the offense.
“We have also got to find a way to make some bigger plays, no question about it,” Orton said. “It’s tough to always rely on eight-, 10-play drives to score points, but it would be great to find ways to score in three- or four-play drives.”
The Broncos haven’t passed down field often — only 31 of Orton’s attempts have been 16 yards or longer — and won’t risk throwing deep balls into coverage. They have had 18 pass plays of 20 yards or longer.
Coach Josh McDaniels said he won’t change his approach and ask Orton to force anything.
“There were plays that we have in our offense, and we always will, that if nobody (on defense) is back there, that is where we are going,” McDaniels said. “If somebody is back there, we are not going to go there.”
Odds and ends
Receiver Brandon Marshall missed Wednesday’s practice with a back injury. Offensive tackle Ryan Harris (toe) and safety Josh Barrett (hamstring) were also out. Defensive end Ryan McBean (knee) was limited. … Redskins running back Clinton Portis, a former Bronco, is unlikely to play after suffering a concussion Sunday. … The Broncos signed cornerback Rashod Moulton, who was with the team in training camp, to the practice squad.