Broncos S Caden Sterns out for season with knee injury, report says

Caden Sterns cannot catch a break.

The third-year safety’s tough run of injury luck continued with a knee injury Sunday that those in the Broncos organization fear is serious.

Head coach Sean Payton on Monday said only that Sterns was undergoing medical imaging on the injury and would not confirm an NFL Network report that he suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon.

Sterns shot into the backfield on a Josh Jacobs run on the first play of the second quarter, but went to the turf awkwardly as he attempted to make a tackle.

He appeared to immediately assume the injury was serious, stomping and punching the turf while being attended to by trainers and then wiping away tears as he was carted off the field.

The emotion is understandable for the former Texas standout, who missed all but five games last year due to a hip injury and was primed for a breakout season. Instead, he played just two defensive snaps before getting hurt again.

“It’s tough, especially in there making a play like that,” said inside linebacker Josey Jewell, whose locker is near Sterns’ at Denver’s training facility. “… I talk to him every single day, joke around with him. You hate to see anybody hurt, but especially guys that you’re really close to. It sucks, but wishing a fast recovery for him.”

The Broncos’ depth at safety is being tested right out of the gate. P.J. Locke is on injured reserve and not eligible to return until Week 5 at the earliest. That means after Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, Denver has Delarrin Turner-Yell (he played exclusively special teams Sunday) and rookie JL Skinner, who was inactive. Essang Bassey can also play safety, but he’s currently the team’s starting nickel.

If Sterns does indeed miss the rest of the season, he’d be the fourth Bronco in that situation so far this year, following wide receivers Tim Patrick (Achilles) and Jalen Virgil (meniscus) and inside linebacker Jonas Griffith (ACL).

Payton also said tight end Greg Dulcich had an MRI slated for Monday after an apparent hamstring injury late in the first half.

Jewell takes responsibility. Denver’s last-ditch effort to get the ball back Sunday ended when Las Vegas quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo scrambled for eight yards on third-and-7 just after the two-minute warning. The Broncos dialed up a six-man blitz, with Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton slanting to the offense’s left and the defensive line slanting to the right side.

Garoppolo moved around a bit and then took off to his left past Jewell, who had turned his back and moved toward the middle of the field.

“I’m coming around, wrapping if the ‘A’ gap is closed,” Jewell said. “I got out there, thought the ball was thrown so I took a couple of shuffles. As soon as I saw it, I saw Jimmy go outside and then, yeah, just tried to run and tackle him. Need to have better eyes.”

Low possession game. The Broncos and Raiders played a bit of a strange game Sunday in that each team had only six full possessions.

Both of Denver’s touchdown drives chewed more than eight minutes off the game clock, while two more ending in a punt and a missed field goal took 6:05 and 5:28, respectively. Vegas’ opening touchdown drive took 5:32 and it had a 7:31 march stifled in the end zone by Kareem Jackson’s interception.

“Points come at a premium,” Payton said. “Generally speaking, you’re between 10-12 possessions per game.”

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