ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The race to be the No. 3 receiver is not the race to be the slot receiver. That is a crucial distinction in the Broncos' receiver competition.
Bennie Fowler III, Jordan Taylor, Cody Latimer, Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie are the five players Head Coach Vance Joseph mentioned when asked about the position Friday. But Head Coach Vance Joseph is looking for the player who can line up in all three receiver spots, not simply in the slot.
A versatile No. 3 receiver is what Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy wants.
"Mike's vision is to have No. 10 [Emmanuel Sanders] in the slot and No. 88 [WR Demaryius Thomas] in the slot. He's looking for the best guy to be the third receiver to play all three spots," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "Knowing all three spots, with Mike's vision, it's really important not just having a slot guy."
That makes the job description different, but not more difficult -- not even for a rookie like Henderson, who has to learn three spots instead of one.
"It doesn't make it tougher. It's just a job you have to do," Henderson said. "I'm getting better at that job. Every day I'm learning my playbook and learning my plays and doing the right things and making the right reads in coverages and things like that."
After a slow start to camp, Henderson has thrust himself into the competition by steadily becoming more involved in the offense while mostly eliminating dropped passes.
"It's most definitely getting a little slower for me," Henderson said. "It's getting easier. I just have to continue to stay in my playbook and learn all my plays and all the concepts, and I'll be just fine."
"Fine" should get him a place on the game-day active roster. But it might not be enough to be the third receiver in a crowded competition.
- SATURDAY SCRIMMAGE WILL BE UNSCRIPTED**
That will allow McCoy and Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods to make their calls entirely based on the flow of the scrimmage, rather than a pre-set script.
"We're going to play ball," Joseph said. "It will be game-like with officials, call it, get what you earn, first-down, second-down — whatever you earn, you'll get tomorrow. It's going to be a full football scrimmage."
There is one one exception -- the first and second teams will not tackle to the ground. The third teamers, however, may have a full-scale, tackle-to-the-ground period.
While the scope of the scrimmage is different than other practices, the decision to have coaches make calls based on the flow of the moment mimics a majority of practice periods.
"My belief as a coach is [that] it's a reaction game for the coaches and players. I want it to be as real [as possible] every day," Joseph said. "And for a first-time coordinator in Joe Woods, having a chance to call the defenses every day without having it scripted, that's big for Joe."
- CHARLES WON'T BE IN THE SCRIMMAGE, BUT HE'S MAKING PROGRESS**
In the wake of his most extensive team-period work since he joined the Broncos, RB Jamaal Charles received a rest day Friday and will sit out the Saturday scrimmage as the Broncos monitor his workload.
But after a day in which he had several runs that saw heavy contact and a long gain down the right side of the field after catching a pass on a wheel route from Lynch, Joseph was pleased with how the 10-year veteran came through the work.
"He came out and he wasn't sore," Joseph said. "Again, [we're] just being smart with Jamaal, get him to Monday and see where we are."
Joseph added that Charles' Thursday workload was the highest of any of the running backs for that practice.
- HOW THE LINE WILL LOOK AT THE SCRIMMAGE**
Joseph said that the starting offensive line for the scrimmage would include rookie Garett Bolles at left tackle. Bolles has split repetitions with Donald Stephenson since Wednesday. Joseph added that center Matt Paradis and right guard Ron Leary will likely be held out from the scrimmage as they recover from their injuries, leaving the work to Connor McGovern and Billy Turner.
Max Garcia and Menelik Watson are expected to work on the first team at left guard and right tackle, respectively.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, OLB Von Miller will play, Joseph said, citing the fact that the work will be a "controlled scrimmage."
- BUT WHO WILL BE THE FIRST QUARTERBACK UP ON SATURDAY?**
If Joseph sticks to his pattern of alternating Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch for the first repetition of the first team period, Siemian would be up first. However, he didn't reveal which would take the first snap with the No. 1 offense, although he has indicated that both will see first-team work.
"I'm not sure yet. Whoever starts, you'll know," he said, smiling.
5. THE RETURN OF GARY KUBIAK
An extra set of eyes watched practice from above the field Friday: those of Senior Personnel Advisor Gary Kubiak, who flew in from his Houston home to watch the session with President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway.
"He looks healthy and happy," DE Derek Wolfe said. "It's going to be nice to have him around."
"It was good seeing my guy," said safety Darian Stewart, who arrived with Kubiak in 2015. "He looks good and I was happy he came out here today."
Broncos fans set a training-camp record on the eighth day of camp. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)