The Denver Broncos rode the play of Von Miller to a Super Bowl title in 2016, but if they have any dreams of battling for a championship this season it will likely be without the All-Pro linebacker.
Their season kicks off at home Monday night in an empty Empower Field at Mile High against the Tennessee Titans, the final game of Week 1.
Miller was injured late in practice Tuesday, and an MRI on Wednesday revealed a dislocated peroneal tendon in his ankle. NFL Network reported that Miller will undergo surgery and miss the 2020 season.
Denver was dealt another blow Thursday when the team’s No. 1 receiver, Courtland Sutton, left practice with an apparent right shoulder injury. Sutton fell awkwardly after reaching for a high pass and went to the locker room.
He was having an MRI on the shoulder late Thursday. Sutton was listed on the team’s first injury report as limited in practice.
If he misses any time it would deprive quarterback Drew Lock of his favorite target late last season and throughout training camp. Sutton had 72 receptions for 1,112 yards and six TDs in 2019, his second NFL season.
Miller is the heart of the Broncos’ defense and was a key factor in the game plan against Titans running back Derrick Henry. Henry has become one of the best bruising backs in the league, and he nearly carried Tennessee to the Super Bowl last February before the Titans lost in the AFC title game at Kansas City.
The Broncos held Henry to 28 yards on 15 carries in a 16-0 win in Denver last October. The loss was a turning point for the Titans, who benched QB Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill and went 7-3 the rest of the way en route to the AFC Championship game.
The Broncos got some good news when linebacker Bradley Chubb, who missed most of 2019 after tearing his left ACL last September, practiced Wednesday and Thursday after missing a week with a knee injury.
“He came through yesterday’s practice very good. He looked better. Just as importantly, he woke up feeling better too than he had been,” Denver head coach Vic Fangio said. “That’s always critical, too.”
While the Broncos are losing defensive players, the Titans are adding them, specifically defensive end and former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who was signed to a one-year deal on Sunday. The addition of Clowney will improve Tennessee’s pass rush.
Clowney began practicing this week and bolsters a unit that added linebacker Vic Beasley in the offseason. Beasley was activated from the non-football injury list Saturday but was a limited participant in practice on Thursday.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro (non-injury related), outside linebacker Derick Roberson (knee) and offensive lineman Jamil Douglas (hand) did not practice Thursday while wide receiver Corey Davis and running back Darrynton Evans were limited participants due to hamstring injuries.
The Titans hope they solidified their kicking game with the signing of veteran Stephen Gostkowski in the offseason. Gostkowski was New England’s longtime kicker and won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, also playing in two other title games.
“When my time ended in New England and the pandemic hit, we had a lot of time to think about what we wanted to do, whether we wanted to stay up there or move back down south closer to family,” he said recently. “My wife got on the internet and started looking at houses, and Nashville, it seems like a great place to raise a family.”
Miller’s injury overshadows the revamped Denver offense.
Lock took over in late 2019 and had a solid finish to his rookie season, completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns over the final five games. The Broncos went 4-1 in those games to finish 7-9.
The Broncos added running back Melvin Gordon III and drafted receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Jeudy is expected to make an immediate impact while Hamler is dealing with a hamstring injury.
Hamler was limited in practices this week, his first action since Aug. 19. Inside linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (ankle) and offensive guard Graham Glasgow (ankle) were both limited.