The Denver Broncos have been one of the most injury-impacted teams this season, to the point where you can make an argument they’ve been hamstrung by them. How are the Broncos being tested on the injury front this week?

Denver Broncos KJ Hamler unlikely to play on Sunday against the Titans

As the Broncos look to get on track this season, the story surrounding them has often begged the question ‘what now?’ That’s the question today as the team wrapped up Thursday’s practice at the UCHealth Training Center.

Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler did not participate in Thursday’s practice after experiencing a non-contact hamstring injury during Wednesday’s practice. Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett touched on the injury but gave no clear timeline as to how long Hamler may or may not miss.

“We are going to evaluate it,” Hackett said on Thursday. “It’s a hamstring [injury], so those things—we have to be sure we’re smart with. We’ll see how it moves forward.”

While the Broncos continue to evaluate the injury, it doesn’t appear likely that Hamler will be available on Sunday in Nashville which could prompt undrafted rookie free agent Jalen Virgil to see some time against the Titans.

“Just like any time somebody gets injured, it’s the next man up,” Hackett said prior to Thursday’s practice. “I think that he’s done a good job up to this point, working hard, studying, working hard on the practice field for our scout team looks, and jumping in with us when the ones are going. For him, it might be time and he has to get out there and show us all the things that he’s got.”

Virgil did dress for the first time this season in the Broncos win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

While Hamler’s injury is unfortunate for the Broncos, another offensive player suffered a hamstring injury during Thursday’s practice. Tight end fullback hybrid Andrew Beck pulled up in practice according to 9News’ Mike Klis.

Beck has been an intricate part of Hackett’s offense this season as a key player in the run-blocking game and in the passing attack. At this point, the severity of Beck’s hamstring is unclear, but if he were to miss Sunday’s game, it could allow Albert Okwuegbunam to get back on the field.

“In the end, that group is unbelievably competitive,” Hackett said regarding the Broncos tight end room and what Okwuegbunam has to do to work his way back into the mix. “We have five guys in there that are all capable of playing in this league and do a really good job. I think he just has to continually get better. Everybody competes against each other in that room. It’s a friendly competition, but at the same time, it’s to make our team better. He has to compete with those guys to get out on the field.”

What’s the fuss about wristbands and Russ?

Any time one of Russell Wilson’s former teammates or coaches gets the chance to take a shot at him, they seemingly do, making the rounds in the national spotlight. The latest comes from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll indicating that Wilson was resistant to wearing a wristband during his time with Seattle in an attempt to diminish his willingness to win.

Wilson fired back on Wednesday with his own response to a lot of the outside noise and criticism.

“I don’t know exactly what he said, but I won a lot of games there without [a wrist band] on the wrist,” Wilson said on Wednesday. “I didn’t know winning or losing mattered if you wore a wrist band or not. We do whatever it takes to make sure that we’re rolling, moving and everything else. A few times, I definitely wore a wrist band, depending on the game plan, what we had called, and all of that stuff.”

As a matter of fact, Wilson wore a wristband in the Broncos’ win against the Jaguars in London. From a coaching perspective, here is some information about the value of wearing a wristband and ultimately why it’s not a big deal. Wristbands are useful from a playcalling standpoint primarily when the Broncos find themselves in a situation where they need to move uptempo or if they choose to embrace an uptempo approach.

These play call sheets inside the wristband contain a number, within the quartile of that number is a play call or audible that will allow Wilson to call out the play to his teammates in that type of situation. It’s nothing more and nothing less.

“There’s a couple of different things,” Hackett touched on about the value of a quarterback wearing a wristband. “As a play designer, sometimes you want to get a little creative and those things can get a little bit verbose. You want to have it so it’s easier, instead of having to call it and then communicate it. There’s a whole process from when I give it to him, to when he has to process it, to when he has to go in there. Sometimes we get a little elaborate on those things because we’re sometimes trying to get a little crazy. So, it allows you to do that. I think it also helps with crowd noise. If you have crowd noise going, from him listening to me, he just has to hear one wristband number, and then he can go in there and communicate to the guys properly. There’s a lot of different things that it’s good for.”

We’ll see if it can continue to pay off for the Denver Broncos who benefitted from its use against the Jaguars. Players on the offensive side of the ball have preached and reiterated how the Broncos’ offense plays better when they play faster and more uptempo, could this be in Hackett and Wilson’s arsenal going forward?

Broncos special teams unit adapting despite constant change

Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes met with the media on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s matchup against the Titans. One thing that can be said is that the Broncos special teams unit has been much more improved under Stukes than it has the last several years.

Stukes and assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory have dealt with a multitude of core players shuffling in and out of the lineup due to injury or promotion to starting on offense or defense. In regards to newcomers Chase Edmonds and Jacob Martin, a lot of their roles on special teams will be dictated based on how much they are used on offense and defense this week.

“Obviously, [OLB] Jacob Martin, he played—when we played the Jets, he played an excessive amount of special teams, so we got to evaluate his tape—us versus the Jets,” Stukes said on Thursday. “I think he’s going to help us, as far as being a four-core player. We just have to see what his rep count is on defense. We intend on using him, absolutely. As far as [RB] Chase [Edmonds], we just have to see what the offensive plan is. If he’s going to be heavy involved in the running game, then it’s going to be hard to use him on extensive special teams. We just have to figure out where they are on offense and defense then make a plan off of that.”

One area Stukes would like to get more of a chance to evaluate is the Broncos kick return game, but they’ve only had 9 kickoff return attempts this season. The Broncos’ defense can be attributed to a large part of that due to how efficient they have been this season in preventing opponents from scoring touchdowns. Whenever opposing offenses have kicked a field goal or scored, a majority of potential return attempts for Montrell Washington have gone out of the back of the endzone.

“We’ve had nine reps of kickoff return and I blame our defense to be completely honest with you (laughs),” Stukes joked on Thursday. “Because they’re stopping the offenses so much, we’re not getting those kickoffs. I blame [Defensive Coordinator] Ejiro [Evero] and I blame the defense—they’re doing too good of a job. If we had more reps, obviously you get better. The more reps you have, you’re going to get better and you’re going to produce. I try to emphasize to those guys. We’re 31 or 30—whatever the case may be—which makes me sick to my stomach, but we have time to improve that. We have nine games. You can’t just pout and think about what the past has brought us. We got to move forward and build off where we are right now.”

With the Broncos gearing up to approach a brand new slate of games, perhaps they’ll get the chance to garner some return production this weekend against the Tennessee Titans.

Cody Roark is Mile High Sports lead reporter covering the Denver Broncos — Cody covers every practice, every home and away game plus community events related to the organization. He also co-hosts The Afternoon Drive with Aniello Piro on Mile High Sports Radio and is the host of the Locked On Broncos podcast. You can follow Cody on Twitter and Instagram @CodyRoarkNFL.