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Case Keenum showcasing traits needed to win championships


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Early in the Broncos' offseason program, quarterback Case Keenum clarified one aspect of his new role as Denver's starter.

While he was appreciative of the opportunity to head into a season as the unquestioned signal caller, he wouldn't declare himself the leader of either the offense or the team.

Instead, Keenum said, he'd aim to work every day to prove himself to his teammates.

The process — at least through the first several weeks of OTAs — seems to be moving at an accelerated pace.

"The guys have already rallied around him," safety Justin Simmons said. "I know he talks about how he wanted to come in and earn that leadership spot. I'm not speaking for him or for anyone on the offensive side, but I feel like he is definitely earning it, if not has earned it. Day by day already, just in OTAs, he's taken full steam of the offense and has really gotten them going."

That seems evident in talking with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has been one of the main beneficiaries of Keenum's arrival.

The new version offense, Sanders said, gives Keenum and Co. a variety of ways in which they can attack a defense, and they're displaying them in OTAs.

During Wednesday's practice, Sanders saw a number of his teammates make big plays on the offensive side of the ball. After a 2017 season in which the team struggled to create explosive plays, that's a welcome change.

"I tell you what, everybody — like at practice today — everybody was making plays on the offensive side," Sanders said. "A lot of big-time plays. We went off [as] wide receivers, and [had] great balls by the quarterbacks. I'm optimistic; I like what I'm seeing."

Sanders rattled off a series of names — Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman — but the most impressive offensive player may be Keenum.

As Thomas said on May 29, one of Keenum's most noticeable attributes is the way in which he leads the team while on the field.

On the next-to-last day of OTAs, the Broncos' offense and defense continued to make strides to return to top form.

"He takes control of everything," Thomas said. "Not just offense, but the whole group. Offense, defense, special teams and all. He takes control of the huddle. I know that I was in the huddle one day and I said, 'Wait, wait, wait. We're missing …' and he said, 'I got this.' And I said, 'OK.'

"So it's stuff like that. It's good to have him around."

That leadership hasn't stopped off the field. Keenum, Thomas and Sanders are working to finalize a throwing session over the summer break, and Keenum has made the most of every spare second while at the facility.

"Every day — the majority of the days — he'll come in and ask me and D.T. to go and watch practices," Sanders said, "and we'll sit in the back room and watch film and go over what he's thinking and what we're thinking."

“I’ve been a part of two Super Bowl teams and that’s what it takes.” Emmanuel Sanders

Think those extra film sessions are overkill or that they're just for show?

Sanders made it clear Wednesday just how valuable extra studying in June can be when a team turns the corner from December to January.

"I've been a part of two Super Bowl teams and that's what it takes," Sanders said. "That extra work that's not mandatory, where guys are in there working out or working on their mental game. That right there — when it's fourth quarter or when it's fourth-and-5 or third-and-8 — that's the stuff that gets you over the hill."

With Keenum on the Broncos' side, that hill may not seem so daunting.

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