ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** If you saw Cody Latimer at last summer's training camp practices or scrimmages, you know he's no stranger to making big leaps.
He'll be expected to make another big jump this season, as Head Coach Gary Kubiak said earlier in the week: "He showed a lot of flashes from me watching him in practice. A lot of times being a rookie can be overwhelming. I think as the year went on he just showed that he's got a lot of skill. I think it's time for him to make a big jump, not just a little jump."
Questions abound, but the former second-round pick says he's prepared to take on a bigger load in 2015.
"I feel like I'm ready, especially coming in a new offense, everybody gets a clean slate so we're all starting from Day 1, and it'll be exciting," he said. "I get to work with Peyton coming up soon, so he'll be able to get me more into the offense and getting my learning curve, taking it to the next level."
Latimer said he'll be heading to Durham, N.C. next week to join the Peyton and Eli Manning at Duke University for their yearly workout session, ready to lay the groundwork for timing and chemistry that will be vital in the coming season.
"It's my first time there, so it should be fun. I know we're going to be working, studying, probably watching film and running routes," Latimer said. "It's a good connection. It's an early head start, in other words, to something that should be great. So that's what I'm looking forward to, getting our timing connection and probably learning off of him and maybe learning something of the offense and things like that."
That should help more after his rookie season as he heads into his second year, which many—including him—see as what should be a breakout year of sorts.
"[Kubiak] told me, you know, it's my time," Latimer continued. "I feel like my biggest leap is going to be from Year 1 to Year 2 and he's going to help make sure of that, so I'm excited about it. I'm just ready to do what I can to help this organization."
He's hoping that having a full offseason and some NFL experience under his belt will lead to greater skill in all areas: timing, physical conditioning, knowing the playbook. Every facet is an area he sees as where he can improve to make that big jump, and he knows he's got the resources to get it done.
"Most importantly, it's the playbook — learning a whole knew offense," he said. "It's going to be my third one: last couple years of college to last year's system and now a whole other one. So that'll be the challenge for me, and I'll just make sure I'm in an office, getting real close with Peyton. He'll know it better than anyone, along with Coach Kubiak. He said if I need anything, he's going to be there helping me. He said [for] any problem. I'm going to go make sure I'm with him. [If] I've got an issue or I don't know this, I can have him explain it to me since it's his offense he's bringing in."
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Latimer said he had a tough time in his first year adjusting to a new offense and working with one of the most cerebral quarterbacks of all-time, but this year he's grown to become more prepared as a player.
"I struggled at doing that at times, so I feel like this year is going to be a big year. I've matured a lot and I'm ready to be an actual football player. I've learned a lot from [Manning], Emmanuel [Sanders] and DT [Demaryius Thomas] last year. Emmanuel had a notebook he sat around with after every practice, and I should have been doing that. What he messed up on, what he could have learned from. I learned a lot. It was a learning year for me, learning from the pros."
Next year we could see Latimer turn what he learned into production on the field, and he's got the confidence of Kubiak and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway to do so.
Latimer said that vote of confidence helps push him to work harder this offseason. He's been in the gym and working on his route-running. He had taken time off to see his mother and have a vacation, and then came back to Denver early to get back to work. When he spoke to us on Friday, his soreness from a workout the day before spoke volumes about the work he's putting in to prepare.
"I know it's a big opportunity and I've got to make that leap for myself and our organization. They expect big things out of me; they drafted me in the second round, they expect me to produce so I feel like I've got to own up to that and make it happen."