ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver's defensive line suddenly isn't so deep.
All three linemen the Broncos drafted in April have been banged up. Now the rookies face the difficult task of speeding up their learning curve while also making up for lost time.
Early in camp, first-rounder Jarvis Moss twisted a knee and fourth-rounder Marcus Thomas was hobbled by a strained calf. Second-rounder Tim Crowder has a sprained left ankle that kept him out of Monday's practice.
Amon Gordon, a third-year pro who was on the Broncos' practice squad last year, has emerged as the man to beat at right defensive tackle, Warren's old spot. Warren didn't fit into new defensive boss Jim Bates' scheme.
Who will take over for Ekuban is up the air.
"He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He prepares and practices hard. It's definitely going to be a loss," Bates said. "And what happens now is some of the younger guys have to step up. We don't have time to get them ready for the middle of the season or so forth after losing Eb."
Ekuban's right defensive end job could go to Crowder or 11th-year pro Kenard Lang, who moved into the starting lineup last summer when Courtney Brown suffered a season-ending injury in training camp.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Crowder could return to practice this week and there's a chance he could play this weekend.
"(It's) a little hard to tell right now," Shanahan said, "but he was walking without a limp, so that's a good sign."
Moss hasn't worked his way into the mix yet, in part because of the week of workouts he missed after twisting his left knee while doing a spin move during one-on-one pass-rush drills on Aug. 6. He was carted off the field but an MRI was negative.
"Well, he's not ready to start yet, but he does have a big upside. He's got some pass-rush ability. He does have some speed," Shanahan said. "He will get there in time. He might get there a little sooner than anticipated. He's got a couple more weeks to improve. He's been working extremely hard. He's very bright."
Bates said Moss hasn't caught up from the time he's missed.
"He was coming on fast," Bates said. "He had a couple bright spots the other night but it wasn't nearly as complete as if he'd been practicing. So, hopefully through this week, next week, we will see the improvement that we saw, oh, 10 days ago."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press