DENVER (AP) -The Denver Broncos returned from their week in the Texas heat in a world of hurt.
They lost starting defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban for the season to a torn Achilles' tendon and workhorse running back Travis Henry sprained his left knee and might not play again until the season opener.
Henry underwent additional tests Sunday to confirm the original diagnosis of a first-degree (least serious) sprain of the medial collateral ligament.
Both were hurt in Denver's 31-20 loss Saturday to the Dallas Cowboys, who were much more aggressive on defense than the Broncos were expecting after practicing with them all week following a Monday night game in San Francisco.
``There were two different approaches,'' Broncos safety John Lynch said. ``We didn't game plan. We played two coverages and two fronts. (Dallas) blitzed every play.''
And the Broncos were ill-equipped to handle that because they had already lost right tackle Adam Meadows to a severely strained calf during the week of workouts in Dallas - along with rookie defensive end Tim Crowder - and left guard Ben Hamilton (concussion), left tackle Ryan Harris (back surgery) and right tackle Jacob Rogers (knee) are all ailing.
That left tight end Chad Mustard to take snaps at right tackle Saturday night.
The Broncos also are hurting on defense, and their performance in their first two exhibition games might force them to rethink their plans to jettison defensive tackle Gerard Warren, whom they've been trying to trade since last week.
Warren, who signed a six-year, $36 million deal a year ago, has fallen out of favor in Denver, where new defensive boss Jim Bates prefers beefier tackles who can hold up at the point of attack and not the penetrating type of lineman that Warren is.
Warren might stick around, however, after loss of Ekuban and the dismal defense displayed so far by Denver, especially against the run.
The Broncos' first-string defense has allowed four touchdowns and two field goals so far, and they've really got just one more exhibition game, Saturday night against Cleveland, to work things out because the final preseason game is for fringe candidates to work their way onto the roster more than anything.
``If it was the last preseason game, I'd be a little more concerned,'' cornerback Champ Bailey said Saturday. ``We have time to make it up. We expect ourselves to get better. It can't get any worse than it did tonight.''
Ekuban's loss is a big blow. The ninth-year veteran had missed just one game in his two seasons in Denver after joining the Broncos in a trade with Cleveland. He had a career-high 78 tackles and seven sacks last year.
The Broncos had hoped he'd be the veteran influence up front for a bevy of young linemen, including three of their four draft picks - Crowder, Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas, vying for playing time.
``He was a guy we were definitely depending on up front,'' Bailey said. ``We're going to miss him.''
Ekuban's loss was the second big loss to a team that lost its captain and leading tackler in the offseason when middle linebacker Al Wilson was waived for health and salary cap concerns.
``(Ekuban) is a great part of this defense,'' linebacker D.J. Williams said. ``When you lose a guy like that, you always wonder about games like this.''

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