ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Peyton Manning's assimilation into the Denver Broncos offense isn't complete, but after eight days of training camp, substantial progress has been made.
Manning showed a crisp connection with wide receiver Eric Decker in the opening days of camp. The two clicked on several routes in the early goings of team drills, one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens, even getting one past veteran cornerback Champ Bailey on occasion.
Tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen have also been beneficiaries of Manning's integration into the offense, hauling in passes in bunches during every practice.
And wideout Brandon Stokley, in his 14th year in the league, is running routes and catching passes from No. 18 like the pair did in Indianapolis six years ago.
With each practice, the unit moves more fluidly. There's less visible rust and more high-fives.
"Well, I think that's a process," Manning said. "It starts in the offseason (with) OTAs, minicamp, training camp and throughout the preseason. I think you learn a little bit more about each guy every time you throw to him."
"It's nothing you can really rush," he continued. "It takes practices, it takes different scenarios, different types of situations — two-minute, third-down, red-zone."
Thursday afternoon was wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' turn to show the daily crowd of 4,000-plus that he, too, can be on the other end of one of Manning's six-point spirals.
Thomas made a handful of catches during the afternoon practice, highlighted by a 40-plus yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in traffic.
The Manning-to-Thomas deep ball garnered the loudest cheer of the day, but the most obvious display of chemistry between the quarterback and receiver came earlier on in practice. First, Manning hit Thomas on a 15-yard hitch route, with the ball reaching Thomas just as he turned around and slid to his knees, making the catch where no other player could have gotten a finger on it.
On the very next play, the two connected on another comeback route, this one traveling less than 10 yards in the air. At around the 40-yard line, the 6-foot-3-inch, 229-pounder made the grab, shook a pair of defenders and turned upfield, leaving the entire secondary behind him.
"Demaryius, these past two days, he's done some good things with the ball after the catch, which is what we're going to need," Manning said. "You can't just throw down the field every time. You've got to take a 5-yard hitch or a 10-yard hook route and turn it into a 20- or a 30-yard gain, and he's shown those type of plays these past two days. It's a real credit to him."
On Thursday afternoon, the Manning-Thomas connection looked like it had been fully functioning for several years, not several weeks.
"He's the biggest receiver I've played with since I've been in pro ball, certainly," Manning said. "Demaryius is a guy who we're going to feature. His size and strength and speed allows you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do."
With two-thirds of training camp and four preseason games remaining, there's plenty of time for the offense to continue to harmonize.
"We're getting better as an offense every day," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "That's the key is everyone gets on the same page, and that's something that's going to take time."
"The more we can practice in live situations in pads, the better they're going to get," he continued. "And that's the entire offense though, not just one guy."
From Manning to McCoy to every potential element of the Broncos' attack, it's understood that offensive cohesion isn't achieved over night. It's a process that takes time. And that's okay, because with 38 days between now and Sunday Night Football at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, time is something they have to work with.
"Every day is important," Manning said.
On Thursday, the Broncos waived/injured wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin. He was injured during Wednesday's training camp practice.