DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos have spent

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years trying to solve their tight end troubles.Their inadequate coverage of tight ends and inability to get much production from their own are two of the biggest reasons they’ve fallen so far from their Super Bowl perch and have been looking up at the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West since 2016.Both problems appeared to be fixed this season thanks to an influx of talent on defense and a return to health of Jake Butt , who missed his rookie season last year after tearing up his right knee in his final game at Michigan.Yet, Butt’s season is over after he tore his left ACL at a walkthrough practice Thursday and the Broncos haven’t shown much progress in throttling opposing tight ends, either.In their opener, the Broncos allowed Seattle’s Will Dissly to become the first tight end in league history to top 100 yards receiving and score a touchdown in his NFL debut, one that included a 66-yard rumble featuring four missed tackles.Butt’s third ACL tear was the crushing blow, coming four days before the Broncos (2-1) host the Chiefs (3-0) on Monday night .“I felt for Jake right away,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “He’s worked so hard for the last two years to get himself back to this point. He was improving every day. He was making plays for us on Sundays. You can see the special ability this player had and the passion.“This guy was the same guy every day: happy, fully engaged every day, a very smart football player. It’s a shame that it ended that way on that kind of play.”The Broncos promoted third-year tight end Brian Parker from their practice squad Saturday when Butt joined rookie Troy Fumagalli on IR.That means the Broncos’ tight end group now consists of two undrafted players in Parker and Matt LaCosse and 2015 third-round draft pick Jeff Heuerman, who has just 23 career catches and two touchdowns.“He’s been a good pass-catcher for us,” Joseph said. “He’s always been a pretty good pass-catcher. Now, without Jake, obviously his targets should go up a little bit. But he’s done a great job in the past, especially in the red zone.”Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, “We’re all just broken up about it.”His loss is a big blow to the Broncos’ special teams, too.“It’s a huge loss,” special teams coordinator Tom McMahon said. “He’s a great pro, he loves football. I love Jake. This football team loves Jake. How he acts as a man, if my boys can be that guy 10 years from now, I’ll be a very proud dad.”Covering tight ends has been Denver’s Achilles heel for two years.It was a big reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2016 and last year they allowed the third-fewest yards (3,395) in the NFL , but tight ends accounted for 1,023 of those yards — third-most in the league.After focusing on fixing that all offseason, Dissly’s debut was a downer for the Broncos, who also allowed four catches for 49 yards to Oakland tight end Jared Cook the following week and Ravens rookie tight end Mark Andrews’ 12-yard TD catch last week.Up next is Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce, who had a 133-yard game against the Broncos last year.“He’s just a guy that is hard to put a linebacker on because of his ability,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “He has the size to match up with safeties. He’s really like a wide receiver and tight end. He’s definitely a difficult matchup, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys we have — Justin Simmons and our whole safety crew.“I think we have a chance to go matchup at times against him and win our fair share.” The Denver Broncos had the chance to beat the Oakland Raiders in what will likely be the final game ever played at the Oakland Coliseum. It would have been glorious to defeat the Raiders under such circumstances, but unfortunately the team failed to show up and played one of their sloppiest games off the year. When it was all said and done the Raiders devoured the Broncos 27-14.1. The Broncos register their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1972Those wishing for a Christmas gift of a Broncos’ victory over the Raiders wound up with a lump of coal. With their embarrassing loss to the Raiders the Broncos have officially registered their first-back-to-back losing seasons in over four decades. Thankfully, it won’t be long until the Vance Joseph era in Denver comes to an end which is the true present many fans have been hoping for. Under his guidance the franchise has went south in a hurry. Quite frankly, it’s amazing to see how things have taken a turn for a worse so quickly over the past two years. Many believe that John Elway will wait until the end of the season to make a move, but perhaps tonight’s loss that might change.2. The team looked unprepared and uninspiredIt was no secret that the Raiders’ were one of the worst teams in the National Football League. Their offense wasn’t overly impressive and their defense ranks at the bottom of almost ever category imaginable. None of that didn’t seem to even matter as the Broncos’ failed to do few things of merit the entire game. They looked unprepared, played uninspired and committed far too many penalties to have any remote chance at being successful. It was one of the worst games to watch all season.3. Denver moves up to the 12th selection in the 2019 NFL DraftFor those fans who have already mailed it in on the season and are already focusing their efforts on the 2019 NFL Draft — this news is for you. With their loss to the Raiders, the Broncos have moved up on spot in the draft and are currently slated to select twelfth overall. A loss to the Los Angeles Chargers next week could propel them into the top ten, but there are a handful of 6-9 and 5-10 teams that stand in the way of a high pick. Whether you fancy a franchise quarterback or top-tier defensive prospect, the higher the Broncos can get, the better chance they will have at getting a blue-chip player who can be a difference maker.4. The Broncos’ young receivers made a positive impactExtended playing time for all of the young Broncos’ players will be important with respect to the future. While the Broncos’ offense was absolutely stagnant in the first half it showed some signs of life in the second half. The duo of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton combined for 12 catches amassing 105 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Tim Patrick had several impressive grabs throughout the night. The three aforementioned players provide the Broncos’ offense with a sound foundation for the future but adding another dynamic playmaker to the unit would be a smart idea.5. Phillip Lindsay hits the 1,000-yard milestoneA few days ago Lindsay became the first undrafted offensive player in history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He hit another milestone Monday night becoming the sixth rookie running back in franchise history to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Lindsay had 10 carries for 46 yards before exiting the game in the fourth quarter with a wrist injury. His individual performance is one of the sole bright spots in a lost Broncos’ season. I look forward to Lindsay being utilized in a better and more unique fashion next season.So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from tonight’s Christmas Eve game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!
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