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Broncos Have Luxury of Patience at Receiver

Posted May 19, 2014

The major change on the top line of the wide receiver depth chart does not mean the rookies will be pressed into service before being ready.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As with any other position, the Broncos' wide receivers will define their roles with their performance. But the newest members of the corps understand that in a group that features four proven veterans -- including three who started at various points last season -- the best thing they can do for now is learn.

Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell combined for 181 receptions, 2,408 yards and 27 touchdowns with the Broncos last year. Emmanuel Sanders has four years of experience as a target of Ben Roethlisbeger and can line up inside or outside. All were with Peyton Manning for a few days of informal work at Duke University last month, along with Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas.

"The vets are on a whole other level right now; they've got to stay focused and get ready for the season," rookie Isaiah Burse said Sunday. "So they don't have too much time to sit down with a rookie and try to teach a rookie everything when they've got to focus on getting better, as well."

But Burse said Welker has been welcoming with tips when the opportunity has presented itself. And for himself, Cody Latimer and other young receivers like Greg Wilson, Nathan Palmer and Jordan Norwood and rookies Bennie Fowler and Greg Hardin, the best teachers could be the players they hope to emulate.

With impressive measurables and sterling college tape, Latimer turns a head or two just by walking onto the practice field, even though his work this weekend was limited as he completes recovery from foot surgery in January.

"He's a physical specimen, and when he plays, he plays his size," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "To see him catch the ball as well as he does, and then his blocking is unbelievable. I don't think I've really seen a college guy go after it the way he has in the past, and hopefully he just carries that over to this level."

With his natural gifts and his second-round status, Latimer can count on having time to develop.

"I'm here to get on the field, but it's not much of a rush," he said. "I can learn from (the veterans) and don't have to get pushed into the system too early.

"I'll be on the field when I can, special teams, however I've got to play on the field. Like I said, it makes it easier for me having to catch on to the offense, not so much of a rush."

The veterans has a change to absorb, following the free-agency departure of Eric Decker and the arrival of Sanders, whose skill set should easily fit into the offense.

"He's more of the mold that I was kind of raised on in an offense," Gase said of Sanders. "That quickness, defenders not being able to get their hands on him on the line of scrimmage and his ability at the top of routes to separate.

"His hands are outstanding and his run-after-catch, seeing that over the last few years of, if he's got one guy to make miss, he makes it happen. His addition is going to be big for us."

Sanders can play in the slot or outside.

"Emmanuel does have that flexibility to go inside-outside," Gase said. "When we use Wes, a lot of times you see him with Julius (Thomas) or DT for the most part. Wes does have the ability to go outside; it's not something we want to make a living off of, but we always have options to be able to use those guys both inside and outside."

And that's a major part of the lesson for Latimer, Burse and the rest of the unproven Broncos receivers: to learn multiple roles. The inevitability of injuries means at some point, one of the receivers at rookie minicamp this week will be a focal point.

"I'm not looking forward at coming here and having trouble my rookie year," Latimer said. "I'm going to work my butt off every day and I'm here to help the team win."