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Broncos, Briefly: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018

But his legacy in Denver will be about more than just numbers or big plays.

"The thing is, in this game, we all know that you're not going to be in it forever," Rod Smith, the Broncos' all-time leading receiver and a mentor to Thomas said earlier this year. "What do you really leave? It's not what you leave on the field, it's what you leave in the guys you were with. I think he recognizes that. I told him a couple years ago after he got his first big contract, I said, 'They didn't give you that money just to make catches. They gave you that money to lead.'

"Leadership is in more than one area and facet, and the good thing is he gets to do it his way. Those guys have to respect him because the numbers speak for himself. He's breaking records that I had."

Sutton leads the Broncos wide receivers with a 19.1 yards-per-catch average and has already proven himself to be a difficult matchup for opposing defensive backs, especially in contested-pass situations. Recently Broncos coach Vance Joseph summed up the reason to throw the ball Sutton's way with "it's either a big play down the field or a penalty on the guy who's covering him."

"Courtland's played very, very well, and Tim Patrick played very well last week, and Emmanuel [Sanders] is obviously playing very well too," Elway said. "We thought this would give Courtland a chance to get out there and play more and be a bigger part of it because we think he's ready to go."

"There's enough good plays out there," general manager John Elway said after trading receiver Demaryius Thomas to Houston. "We've been very inconsistent, obviously, and I think that's been toughest thing.

"With the amount of plays we've made and the good things we've done, it gives me hope that we can turn this around."

The explanation for Denver's confidence without Thomas is justified.

Not only does Sutton (6-3, 218) mirror Thomas (6-3, 229) in stature, but also in skill-set, whereas Sutton's ability to high-point the football over defenders on deep balls and his physicality in blocking is so-far reminiscent of Thomas in his prime. Although Sutton has much to prove he's recorded 17 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns through eight games as almost exclusively a deep-ball threat. He's now tasked with running a full route tree as Denver's No. 2 wide receiver option behind Sanders.

"We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there, play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he's ready to go," Elway said. "He's played well up to this point in time. Hopefully this accelerates his maturity."

Doesn't Elway, the franchise icon who is also its general manager in charge of football operations, have concerns about the stability atop the Broncos' organization?

"No, I don't,'' he said. "I will say this, in my opinion and having worked with Joe, he's been that pillar for us. That's still above our level and we still have to concentrate on doing the best we can as far as trying to get back on track and win some football games.

"We look at that as it will handle itself. But I just know in the long run that eventually, no matter what happens, I think we're still going to be fine. Whatever way that goes, I think that the franchise is in good shape."