ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Emmanuel Sanders didn't know Mike McCoy until this year. But he's known about the foundation of McCoy's work from the moment he arrived in Denver three years ago.
McCoy was already 14 months into his tenure as Chargers head coach by then. But in his 2009-12 tenure as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, he left behind the framework of an offense that then-coordinator Adam Gase expanded upon in 2013, leading to a record-setting passing output.
The dust from that campaign had barely settled when Sanders signed a three-year deal in March 2014. On an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon, Sanders walked up to the lectern in the team meeting room, smiled and declared that he was in "wide-receiver heaven." Months later, he went out and shattered every previous career standard he'd established during four seasons with the Steelers.
The quarterback changed, the head coach changed -- twice -- and now Sanders is back where he started, working in a scheme that unlocked his potential as no other had. After Tuesday's practice, he even dusted off the "wide-receiver heaven" description.
"I remember this offense from 2014," Sanders said. "It's very pass-happy and that's everything you want as a receiver. So I'm excited."
That means it's also everything that a quarterback could want, and Sanders already sees enthusiasm from Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as they immerse themselves in the scheme.
"I was just watching Trevor walk around, and he's walking around with that same confidence of, 'Man, you put me in the shotgun and I can sling it around,'" Sanders said. "You see Paxton, and he sees the opportunity at hand. Being a young guy last year Paxton was like that deer in the headlights, walking around big-eyed. Now he's more relaxed.
"It's going to be interesting to see how Paxton takes his second year and hopefully get that Memphis swag back, seeing those two guys compete and seeing who wins the job."
Whether it's Siemian or Lynch taking the Week 1 snaps, the starting quarterback will not run an offense that is a carbon copy of what the Broncos ran in 2014.
"We changed up some of the wording, changed up some of the plays and [will] make our own packages based off the players we have right now to fit this system," Sanders said. "I think [McCoy] is doing a good job so far.
"I was actually just looking at him earlier and saying, 'Man, this guy is cool.' He's very player-friendly. He'll talk to you," Sanders added later. "You can walk up and approach him and be able to ask him any question, and he's down to help. And that's what I like in coaches -- coaches like that understand that the players make the system, and if the players understand the system, that's how he gets his success."
Sanders should have no trouble understanding the system. This will be the fourth scheme he's learned in his eight-season career, so he knows the drill. He grasps how much study is required to grasp his role in the offense. Whether he's working on the outside or in the slot, he'll be ready.
"It can be difficult if you don't get into your playbook," Sanders said. "It's kind of like going to college. If you don't study when you go to college, more than likely you're going to get an 'F' or you're going to fail out."
But it isn't hard to ask players to study something that excites them. For all players involved in the Broncos' passing game -- especially Sanders and his fellow wide receivers -- the possibilities of McCoy's scheme tantalize the mind and energize the spirit.
"There's more energy in the room," Sanders said. "There's more guys saying, 'Oh, I could have the opportunity to go for a thousand yards being that No. 3 wide receiver.' I know all of those guys are looking forward to it."
Head Coach Vance Joseph conducted his first on-field practice with the Broncos on Tuesday on the first day of the team's voluntary veteran minicamp. (photos by Gabriel Christus)