ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ed McCaffrey is still keeping an eye on the Broncos.
His sons may be on other NFL teams and he may have stepped away from calling Denver's games on the radio, but he's still watching, keeping tabs on his former team and its group of receivers as they prepare for the 2017 season.
"No two seasons are the same and no two teams are alike, and neither is the same player from year to year," McCaffrey said. "So I'm waiting for training camp. When I see them in training camp, I'll probably have a feel for who they're going to play. There's always a guy who stands out and makes plays. They're going to have some young guys, some new guys, some old guys.
"What I think that [Head] Coach [Vance] Joseph is looking for is consistency. That's what [Wide Receivers] Coach [Tyke] Tolbert's looking for. There's guys that flash here and there that have made plays. A lot of different guys on this roster have made plays, but they're looking for consistency."
Receivers Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler III and Jordan Taylor factor into that competition as veterans who contributed a combined 430 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, but to take advantage of a big opportunity behind starters Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, someone needs to show more than just the flash of potential.
"We need to see them do it all the time, or at least most of the time," McCaffrey said. "And right now I think they have a lot young, talented guys but no one has completely captured that position. I think it's still completely up for grabs, and I think there's a great opportunity here for someone to set themselves apart in training camp."
Fighting for that spot — or simply for a spot on the active roster — are rookie draft picks Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie, two speedsters who could add new elements to the offense. McCaffrey is hesitant to offer any analysis until he can see them go up against Denver's defense in camp, but he knows if they succeed against the Broncos' deep cornerback corps, they have something to offer the team on game days.
"I see a lot of talent, but the best test for me is watching them against this Denver Broncos defense," McCaffrey said. "If you can get open against Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby, you can get open against anybody. That's the test for me. … There's a lot of incredible college players that are really, really good in college. It takes another leap to become successful in the NFL and I tend to see or at least have an opinion on who I think is going to make that leap once I see them competing against the very best, and the receivers on this Denver Broncos roster are going to get to do that against their own defense pretty soon."
With camp set to begin on July 27, McCaffrey will get the opportunity to gauge the Broncos receivers for himself very soon. As a former NFL standout, his attention will be dialed in on the group of wideouts and evaluating the intricacies that could decide separate some young receivers from the rest.
"Well, I'm neurotic, so I watch everything," McCaffrey said. "I watch their stance, their get-off, how they get off bump coverage, their stems, how they're coming out of their breaks, whether they have good hands or not, whether they're creating separation out of their cuts and just who's making plays. I mean some guys will come in extremely talented but they're not very polished; they're not great route-runners. Other guys may come in, they're not quite as physically gifted but they're very polished, they run great routes and they have sound technique."
This time is a period of transition for the younger players and making a successful move from college to the pros can depend on many factors, from how they adjust to the offensive system, the strength program or a role on special teams. These are all things he'll keep an eye out for at camp.
At this point, the one thing that McCaffrey does know for sure is that this team still has the potential to take home a Lombardi Trophy and, like many NFL teams, they are approaching the season confident they can achieve that goal.
"I was blessed to have played 13 years and every team I played for thought we were going to win a Super Bowl," he said. "And a couple of those teams were 6-10 and a couple — or three of them, at least — won the Super Bowl. This team is going to go in with the intent of not getting to the playoffs, not getting to the Super Bowl but winning the Super Bowl.
"I always think you have a chance with a great defense and this defense is still very, very solid. They're an elite defense, they could be the best in the league if things come together for them. I think the offense needs to be able to control the ball better, move the ball better and put more points on the board. … It takes a team to win a Super Bowl. It's not one side of the ball. It's offense, defense, special teams. It takes everybody. But I think if this offense can get a little more consistent, have a few more playmakers, put a few more points on the board, with the defense they have and solid special teams, they're going to be in the hunt."