ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Virgil Green might be known best by some Broncos fans for his 6-yard carry against the Patriots in last year's AFC Championship Game.
That normally wouldn't be odd, except that Green plays tight end.
"I'm down for whatever," he said near the end of OTAs. "If I'm at running back, fullback, wherever. As long as I'm out on the field, I like being out there."
It makes sense that posters of Green aren't hanging on the walls of teenagers all over Colorado. A seventh-round pick out of Nevada, he has 17 catches for 132 yards in his three NFL seasons and hasn't scored a touchdown. In Peyton Manning's first year in Denver, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen were freshly signed veterans who Manning trusted. Last year, Julius Thomas broke out and even pushed the vets to the background.
But Green has quietly carved out a much bigger role than his limited offensive production would suggest. In 2013, he played in 26.4 percent of the Broncos' offensive snaps, more than both Tamme (21.9) and Dreessen (13.2). Particularly notable was Green's playing time in the two games that Thomas missed, Weeks 12 and 13 against the Patriots and Chiefs respectively. Of the 170 snaps in those games, Green was on the field for 111, good for 65.3 percent. Tamme had 49 snaps and Dreessen had 12 over the same span.
By no means did Green replace Thomas' receiving numbers -- understandable, considering the wealth of proven options elsewhere -- but the fact that he took the lion's share of the snaps shows the confidence he invokes from the coaches, and just how far he's come in his three NFL seasons.
Green was drafted three rounds after Thomas in 2011 and required some grooming in his transition from the pistol offense he played in during college. Developing wasn't made easier for either player when the offseason was shortened by the lockout.
"We came in with our backs against the wall to begin with," Green said. "And we just kind of had to lean on each other to learn the offense."
Take a look at the Broncos' Wednesday practice session at Dove Valley.
Now in his fourth year, Green continues to flash more capability and comfort on the field, looking active while catching a number of passes from Manning during OTAs and minicamp. After watching his draft classmate ascend from the unknown to stardom last season, Green is eager to show how he can build on 2013.
"To see his success is only added more fuel to my fire because I feel like I'm a gifted enough athlete to do the same kind of things," Green said of Thomas.
A gifted athlete Green certainly is, and his body style seems a bit different than most tight ends. His measureables are similar to those of Thomas, but Green appears less lanky and surprisingly compact, seemingly without an ounce of fat on his body.
Perhaps the leaner, stouter body type promotes his jack-of-all-trades ability. Most of Green's snaps still come at tight end, but he also played 55.4 percent of Denver's special teams plays in 2013 and functions as the team's fullback when needed, in addition to the occasional foray at running back.
"Each year I try to teach myself something new and different every year and master it," he said. "So that's just the point where I'm getting to: I have everything learned, so now I'm just trying to master all those things."
It remains to be seen whether or not his production on offense will grow, as Manning's collection of weapons is perhaps even deeper than it was last year. The team's propensity for three-receiver sets and Thomas' continued development won't make it any easier for Green to see the ball either. But Green is clearly becoming a more reliable receiver, showing sure hands and focusing on adapting his routes to opposing defenses.
"Peyton expects things to be done a certain way against certain coverages, so you just have to learn those things and respond at a quick pace," he said.
Even if there aren't more throws available to come his way, his multi-tool skillset should ensure he'll be on the field often once again.
"(In college) coach always preached to the eleven guys, 'Do your part,'" Green said. "And that's just how I figure my role is. Just do my part."