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|ENGLEWOOD Charles Harris Jersey , Colo. (AP) — When he demoted Paxton Lynch to third string QB this week, Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said potential simply has to equal performance at some point and that the depth chart reflects results.
That doesn’t explain why tight end Jeff Heuerman and running back Devontae Booker are listed as starters despite middling resumes, promising pursuers and so-so summers.
Heuerman has 18 catches and two touchdowns in two years since missing his rookie season with a left knee injury. He missed most of training camp this summer with soreness in that same knee before returning this week to rave reviews from the coaching staff.
Second-year pro Jake Butt, who missed his rookie season following knee surgery, has been impressive in Heuerman’s absence but remains listed as the backup.
“They’re different,” Joseph said. “So, having a No. 1 tight end in our offense? Not that important. But having a couple of guys who have different skill sets, that’s important for us. Heuerman’s a bigger man. He’s more of an in-line blocker. Butt is a pass catcher, a route runner, a guy who can play in space versus (line) backers and win.
“So, they’re different. So, who’s 1? It depends on what play we call.”
Similarly, Joseph pointed to the differences between Booker and rookie backup Royce Freeman at running back.
“We need both guys,” Joseph said Marshon Lattimore Jersey , “and they’re really different in what they do for our offense.”
Quarterback Case Keenum’s Denver debut was a dud last weekend against Minnesota as the starting offense went three-and-out twice, and the buzz surrounding the Broncos’ summer quickly fizzled.
On the opening series, Booker ran into his guard after a 3-yard gain on second-and-10. On the second series, Freeman dropped a pass on third-and-6.
Freeman bounced back to gain 38 yards on four carries, including a 23-yard touchdown scamper. Booker finished with two carries for 7 yards.
“Book is Book. I’ve been around Book for almost two years now, so I’ve watched him play and he’s doing what he does well — that’s third downs, catching the ball, outside zone is his best run,” Joseph said. “Royce is a downhill pounder. He’s a one-cut runner with pretty good vertical speed.
“I’ve been impressed with both guys, and again to go back to the tight ends question, we need both guys,” Joseph said. “They’re both really different in what they do for our offense.”
The Broncos demoted Lynch, their 2016 first-round draft pick, this week in favor of Chad Kelly Joe Staley Jersey , a 2017 seventh-rounder who spent his rookie season on IR.
General manager John Elway isn’t sure Kelly’s ready to be the backup , and he might have to acquire a veteran backup later this month and finally give up on Lynch.
The Broncos aren’t ready to move on from Booker or Heuerman, however.
“We drafted Jeff in the third round three or four years ago, so we have high expectations because he has a lot of talent,” Elway said. “Hopefully, we can keep him healthy. He’s struggled with some injuries, but he’s very talented and he wants to be a good player and he wants to be on the field. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and keep him out there, because we think he can be a guy that can be very helpful at tight end.”
Asked if Heuerman being listed as the starter on the initial depth chart was a vote of confidence in a guy who had missed most of camp with a nagging knee or a reflection of the inexperience of the tight ends group, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, “probably all of the above.”
Heuerman has been dominant since returning to practice Tuesday and should make his 2018 debut Saturday night against the Chicago Bears.
“He’s got fresh legs. He was the fastest guy we had on the field today running from safeties and backers and even corners,” Musgrave said Tuesday when Heuerman returned to the field.
The key is keeping him out of the trainer’s room.
“If we can get his knee right,” Musgrave said, “he could really be a weapon for us.”
OAKLAND Thomas Morstead Jersey , Calif. — Two teams that could be first-round opponents in the upcoming NBA playoffs square off Saturday night when the New Orleans Pelicans take on the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors (57-22) are locked into the No. 2 seeding in the Western Conference. They will have the home-court advantage against the seventh seed in the first round starting next weekend.
The Pelicans (45-34), meanwhile, are among six teams battling for the final five playoff spots in the West. They will begin the day Saturday tied with San Antonio (45-34) and Oklahoma City (45-34) for fifth place, with Minnesota (45-35) and Denver (44-35) close behind.
One of the five won’t make the postseason.
New Orleans, which is seeking its first playoff spot since 2015, will be playing the second day of a back-to-back, having won 122-103 at Phoenix on Friday.
The Pelicans have lost three straight to Golden State this season by an average of 11 points.
New Orleans has a tough finishing schedule. The Pelicans will visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, then host San Antonio in a game that could have huge playoff implications on Wednesday.
In a virtual must-win against their final weak opponent, the Pelicans took care of business on Friday night, riding 33 points from Anthony Davis and 31 from Nikola Mirotic without burning any starter for more than 35 minutes.
Davis has averaged 30.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in two straight wins for the Pelicans after they had slipped in the playoff chase with four consecutive losses.
The Most Valuable Player candidate insisted recently that having meaningful games in April is enjoyable.
“I haven’t been to the playoffs in three years,” he noted. “This whole process is fun for me and the whole team, knowing that we, one, control our own destiny Lee Roy Selmon Jersey , and, two, have a chance to go in the playoffs and make some noise.”
New Orleans could certainly help its chances and send a message at the same time with a win Saturday. The Warriors have dominated the matchup, winning 10 straight and 20 of 21.
And that doesn’t count the 2015 playoffs, when the Warriors swept the Pelicans in four straight.
This time around, the Warriors almost surely will open their first series without star point guard Stephen Curry, who is out with a sprained MCL. He is scheduled for a re-examination on the eve of the start of the playoffs next week.
The Warriors have had their other three All-Stars — Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green — healthy for their last four games. But while they’ve won three of those four, coach Steve Kerr was especially bothered by a 126-106 drubbing his club suffered Thursday night at Indiana, labeling the effort “pathetic.”
Veteran Shaun Livingston agreed.
“We’ve got to be better,” he said. “Tonight, we were off. But we can’t be off as far as our effort, our intensity. That’s what we’re playing for going into the playoffs.”
The Warriors do have one piece of unfinished business in the regular season. They are currently tied with Toronto (57-22) for the second-best record in the league.
Regular-season records would determine the home-court advantage should the Warriors and Raptors meet in the NBA Finals.
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