ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos wide receivers have a lot to be excited about.
The addition of quarterback
“They're hungry for knowledge,” Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert said. “Them having success with Peyton early on in OTAs, that's making them want to come in and look at more stuff and ask more questions and become even more successful.”
With the team’s leading receivers from 2011 –
“I see the receivers, when Peyton says something, it’s full attention,” Tolbert said. “They try to do things exactly how he wants them done. Especially with the plays that we install, they have more of a want to go out there, as opposed to a feeling of 'I have to go to practice.'”
Thomas and Decker each improved from their rookie season to 2011 in a run-heavy offense that set the franchise record for rushing yards in a season. As the duo will look to make another stride forward in the 2012 season, they will do it together – just like everything else.
“We came in together, we worked out together, we have the same agent,” Thomas said. “We’re all tied together, me and Decker. We stayed together at a house for a year and we came up with this little thing when we were in rookie symposium before we came here. He was No. 87 and I was No. 88 and we came up with ‘Salt ‘n Pepper Time.’ We’re looking forward to that. Both of us have been through our injuries up and down and now we’re both healthy, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Tolbert loves the progress the two receivers are continuing to make.
“I'm very pleased with where they are at this point in time,” Tolbert said. “Going into their third season, they've seen some things that are going to help them be able to grow. They take coaching very well and they try to do everything that you ask them to do. When they do that and have success, that permeates them wanting to learn even more, be it from me, be it from (Offensive Coordinator) Mike McCoy, be it from Peyton, it doesn't really matter.”
By no means, however, are Thomas and Decker the only receivers who will pose a threat to defenses in 2012. In fact, Tolbert said that one of the things that makes his group so dangerous is the versatility among its members.
As far as deep threats, the Broncos boast the 6’3”, 229-pound Thomas, who outran the entire Steelers’ secondary on a game-winning 80-yard touchdown in last year’s Wild Card Round. Then there is Decker, who led the team with four touchdown catches of more than 25 yards and two of more than 50 yards. Providing another down-the-field option this season is
“His addition to our receiving core has helped us tremendously,” Tolbert said of Caldwell. “Believe it or not, he's the fastest guy out there. He can really run and he's made a lot of plays this spring. One of the things we targeted in the offseason is we wanted to get a third guy who had some pretty good size but was really fast, who could make plays. We think we have that in ‘Bubba’ Caldwell.”
Also joining the group this year is 14th-year veteran
“Stokley is able to tell a guy this or tell a guy that and help him out,” Tolbert said. “He's been great for the room. We're excited to have him and he's a reliable guy, a very smart guy.”
Tolbert also praised the leadership and aptitude of fifth-year receiver
“Willis is a guy that nobody talks about a lot,” he said. “But Matt is a leader in that room as well. When he says stuff, people listen as well. He goes by example. He's always back there helping the young guys. He's one of the smartest guys that I've ever been around, as far as knowing all the positions. So I'm very pleased with him from a leadership standpoint.”
Expectations for a new-look offense are higher than the elevation in Broncos Country. Heading into training camp, the receivers know those expectations can be realized if the work is put in.
“It’s the little things – the extra time you spend with the coaches watching film or with the quarterbacks,” Decker said. “I feel like that’s helped me and my biggest thing is just being healthy. I feel like all of that is just going to add up together and I feel like it’s going to be one of my best years.”
MEET THE WIDE RECEIVERS
Andre Caldwell – Acquired during the offseason via free agency, “Bubba” Caldwell is a fifth-year wide receiver in his first year with Denver. He played 51 games and totaled 124 receptions for 1,172 yards with six touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons, all with the Bengals.
Eric Decker – Selected by the Broncos in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft, Decker led the Broncos in receptions (44) and receiving yards (612) in his first year as a starter in 2011 while totaling the second most receiving touchdowns (8) in team history by a player in his first or second season. Decker wears No. 87 for three reasons: He admires former Broncos wide receiver Eddie McCaffrey who wore the number; he was the 87th overall player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft; and he was born in ‘87.
D’Andre Goodwin – Goodwin is a second-year wide receiver who spent the majority of his rookie season in 2011 on the Broncos’ practice squad before being elevated to the active roster for the team’s Divisional Playoff Game at New England.
Brandon Stokley – The team’s most experienced receiver, Stokley returns Denver where he also spent the 2007-2009 seasons. During his 13-year career, he has established himself as one of the most effective slot wide receivers in the NFL during his career with the N.Y. Giants (2011), Seattle (2010), Denver (2007-09), Indianapolis (2003-06) and Baltimore (1999-2002).
Demaryius Thomas – The third-year receiver led the Broncos in receiving yards in each of his final seven contests, including the postseason, in 2011 to set a franchise record. He also fueled Denver’s 29-23 win against Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card round with his four-catch, 204-yard performance that included an 80-yard game-winning touchdown reception on the first play of overtime.
Matthew Willis – Willis is a fifth-year wide receiver who has appeared in 28 regular-season games and two playoff contests during his NFL career with Denver (2008-11) and Baltimore (2007-08). He saw action in all 16 games for the Broncos in 2011 and ranked fourth on the team with 267 receiving yards on 18 catches with one touchdown.