INDIANAPOLIS --Youth will be served on the Broncos roster in the months ahead.
To what degree depends on where the team sits at a particular moment. But no matter whether Peyton Manning returns for the 2015 season -- as Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway want -- the Broncos will emphasize getting their newest players with growth potential opportunities whenever possible.
Last year, the Broncos' second-day picks, second-round wide receiver Cody Latimer and third-round offensive lineman Michael Schofield, saw little use. Latimer's opportunities were scant. Schofield had none at all; the Broncos deactivated him for all 16 regular-season games and the postseason loss.
Kubiak noted that both could have bigger roles going forward, and that he and the Ravens, his former employers, liked both in their pre-draft evaluations last year. Elway agreed.
"I think there's no question that they (the coaches) are going to train them," Elway said. "They're going to have expectations for those young guys to come in and step in and be able to contribute early.
"That's the coaching staff, and that's Gary's mindset, the coaching staff's mindset. They're not afraid to play young guys. And they'll get them trained up to play, which is going to be beneficial to us."
Latimer was stuck behind three established receivers: Emmanuel Sanders, pending free agent Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, who will get the franchise tag if a long-term contract can't be forged in the next nine days. If Welker doesn't return, Latimer is poised to move up.
"Usually a player like that is going to make their biggest jump from year one to two," Kubiak said.
Schofield's inability to get on the field defined his first season.
"We were excited about Schofield coming out of preseason, and we couldn't get him a uni(form)," Elway said.
His continued placement on the inactive list was especially glaring given that one of his positions -- right tackle -- saw a revolving door at midseason. The solution was less than ideal: moving right guard Louis Vasquez from the position at which he was an All-Pro to right tackle.
And that is the position Elway sees him playing. When the Broncos drafted him, they kept open the possibility of him playing left guard or right tackle. However …
"Right now he's more of a right tackle. Especially when we look at where we are, and the offensive line, and right tackle's a need for us," Elway said. "That's what we drafted him for, is to play right tackle. We think it's a good fit for him.
"He's just a young guy, and those guys grow and mature. Having a year under his belt, age, as well as a year in the weight room, is going to make him that much better, too."
And the empowerment of second-year players will extend to the rookies the Broncos brass watches this week, evaluates, and eventually drafts.
"The guys that we draft and bring in this year, they (the coaches) are going to use them all and get them coached up," Elway said.
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Broncos EVP/GM John Elway met with the media Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis