The Denver Broncos defense has struggled mightily this season, and that might be putting it lightly. However, they’ve also been without several key players early on in the season who could be eligible to return soon.

Denver Broncos defense could see help return this week

Despite the rough start to the season, many players on the Denver Broncos defensive side of the ball believe they can turn things around if they can get back to playing assignment football. Part of their success, or lack thereof could have something to do with injuries.

Last week, the Broncos took on the Chicago Bears without safety Justin Simmons, outside linebacker Frank Clark, inside linebacker Josey Jewell, and defensive tackle Mike Purcell.

Each of these players are already on the active roster. When you factor in the injuries to players not on the active roster, the list expands.

Safety P.J. Locke, nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams represent two players on defense who started the season on short-term injured reserve.

Locke suffered a foot injury during training camp that held him out of action. Williams underwent ankle surgery prior to Week 1 to help alleviate an issue he’s been dealing with for quite some time.

Denver has missed both of these players and their potential impacts on defense and special teams, especially with Caden Sterns suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 and Simmons dealing with a groin injury since training camp.

Outside linebacker Baron Browning has been on the PUP list since OTAs after having off-season knee surgery. Broncos general manager George Paton told us prior to Week 1 that Browning looked ahead of schedule and that they would monitor where he’s at after Week 4.

That time is here, and as the Broncos get ready to step back onto the practice field on Wednesday, we’ll gain a little more clarity.

Broncos waive CB Essang Bassey, sign WR Tre’Quan Smith to the practice squad

Denver made a surprising roster move on Tuesday when they announced that they waived cornerback Essang Bassey. Bassey emerged as the key starter and replacement for K’Waun Williams while he was out with an injury.

Last week, the Broncos started Ja’Quan McMillian in the nickel over Bassey. What’s interesting is that Bassey was a core four special teams player when he wasn’t starting on defense, which makes the move a little puzzling.

However, more roster shuffling could occur this week. For three consecutive weeks, the Broncos have elevated running back Dwayne Washington from the practice squad to the active gameday roster.

Since they’ve used the allotted number of elevations with him, Denver could sign him to the active roster from the practice squad since they waived Bassey. Washington is a core four special teams player, which could have helped factor into the team’s decision to move on from Bassey.

Washington played 65% of the Broncos special teams snaps on Sunday against Chicago. With Javonte Williams dealing with a hip injury, he could also contribute on offense if needed, considering his prior familiarity with Sean Payton.

Speaking of familiarity with Payton, the Broncos signed veteran wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith to the practice squad on Tuesday and released WR Michael Bandy.

Smith played five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, with four of those seasons coming under when Payton was the head coach.

He hauled in 112 receptions in his four seasons playing for Payton, 1486 yards, and 17 touchdowns. 80 of his 112 receptions were catches that moved the chains for a first down.