ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When something happens once, it's a fluke. Twice or three times, it's a pattern. Four or more, it's legitimate.
A week into training camp, that's where Cody Latimer stands. Whether against the first team or the second team, he's made plays -- short and downfield. In a short span Thursday, he caught a pass from Peyton Manning in the flat, beating Bradley Roby, then caught a deep toss from Brock Osweiler on a post route. The pass was well-placed and hit Latimer in stride -- and he caught it with one hand.
"It was just a good ball by the quarterback. I ran an okay route, got past the DB, but he did a good job of throwing it past the safety," Latimer said. "It was just a great ball. I just made a play on it, concentrating."
Just an "okay route." Latimer sells himself short, but perhaps that's understandable. At the time he met with the media, he and Emmanuel Sanders had just completed an extra session with Manning, the two new Manning targets working to hone their timing.
"I try to stay out there and learn from them," Latimer said. "He’s doing a good job, I’ve seen him, daily improvement because he’s doing it, so I’m just taking after that and hopefully I keep growing every day."
The return of Demaryius Thomas this week would seem likely to reduce Latimer's first-team repetitions. But as he makes play after play, his performance speaks louder for his case to see regular on-field work than any words he could utter. With Andre Caldwell also contributing solid play when he works with the first team, the Broncos have a problem that most teams would love to have in a league that grows more wedded to the pass every year.
And now, five thoughts:
1. The road back from last September's Lisfranc injury has not been easy for eft tackle Ryan Clady, Although he has practiced since taking the field for organized team activities in May, he acknowledged there is still "a little soreness here and there" in the foot.
Clady has been effective much more often than not, but has allowed some pressure on Peyton Manning from time to time in the last week.
"I’m doing OK. I definitely need to improve a little bit -- just moving around and adjusting to everything, but it’s feeling a lot better for sure," Clady said.
He added that the absence has led to "a little bit of rust," but his target for being full speed is September 7 -- when the Broncos face the Colts in Week 1.
"I want to be 100 percent and on the same level that I was playing at (before the injury). That’s definitely my goal," he said.
2. Quanterus Smith has been one of the reasons why Clady and his fellow offensive tackles have faced a difficult task in recent weeks. Smith got past Clady to post pressure -- and what qualifies as a "sack" with do-not-touch edicts on the quarterbacks -- of Manning.
"He's a good player, for sure. Fast. Really good hands. He’s definitely a good player, and he’ll definitely make the team."
A return to form from Derek Wolfe, continued growth from Malik Jackson, the emergence of rookie Kenny Anunike and the arrival of DeMarcus Ware give the Broncos' outside blockers no respite.
"This is probably the best (defensive) line we’ve had here since I’ve been here," said Clady.
3. Few things in the course of live, full-contact football make linemen happier than when their defensive backs get involved with the dirty work of defending the run near the line of scrimmage. So when cornerback Aqib Talib lowered his shoulder into running back Kapri Bibbs in a goal-line drill, the defense exulted.
Talib's contact stopped Bibbs' momentum long enough for teammates to arrive, preventing the touchdown.
"It makes us proud, because it shows that we're developing a mentality throughout this whole defense, said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "A lot of defensive backs won't come up and hit, won't come up and bang the pads. They just want to be pretty and get interceptions.
"It's just starting to show that, as a group, we're developing the mentality that if you run up the middle, you're going to get a headache," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "If you run to the edge, we've got corners that can come up and hit."
4. Beyond the top five wide receivers, the derby for position -- including perhaps a practice-squad place -- seems to see a new leader every day. During Thursday's work, that was undrafted rookie Bennie Fowler, who used a good route to get open deep past Omar Bolden for a long catch from Osweiler that resembled Latimer's deep play earlier in practice.
On a day-to-day basis, Isaiah Burse appears to be the most consistent of the undrafted rookies and first-year receivers. His work as a punt and kickoff returner likely gives him an edge. But Fowler, Greg Hardin and Greg Wilson have all had their moments, and five-year veteran Jordan Norwood was also active Thursday.
5. Dumping out the notebook …
Julius Thomas is becoming more difficult to defend. During a seven-on-seven period, he grabbed a pass in triple coverage after running a crossing pattern.
Undrafted rookie Jordan Sullen is improving at making his breaks on the football. During a team period, he made a perfect break on the ball to knock down a Zac Dysert pass intended for Nathan Palmer.
Sylvester Williams shone in the goal line period, forcing Manning to his right with pressure from up the middle.
Danny Trevathan and Steven Johnson each burst up the middle for sacks, and were both active against the run and in pass defense. Johnson had a strong all-around day; he stuffed the run, notched that sack and broke up a pass.