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Rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton make big early impression

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The fact that rookie wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are making plays at training camp isn't news. They turned in the same kind of work during OTAs and minicamp, which is what allowed them to enter training camp as the Broncos' third and fourth receivers, which gives them valuable repetitions with starting quarterback Case Keenum.

But with every catch they make -- whether it's a perfect adjustment by Sutton on a pass from Paxton Lynch to beat Tramaine Brock, or what Hamilton called a "one-and-a-half-handed" reception from Keenum down the left sideline despite tight coverage from Chris Harris Jr. -- they show that the buzz that began building in the spring has some significant summer sting.

The last two years showed that the Broncos need more consistent production from their No. 3 wide receiver. While Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have started camp with a pair of good days and have developed good timing with Keenum, a liberal rotation of the team's receivers could help the starting duo stay fresh and ready for high-leverage situations in the fourth quarter and late in the season.

In other words, Sutton and Hamilton can provide exactly what the Broncos previously lacked.

"Me and D.T. told them yesterday, 'Hey, we're going to need you guys to step up,' Sanders said.

"You never know what's going to happen throughout the season. There's going to be times [on] third down and five, we're going to need Courtland to come up with those big-time catches. We're going to need DaeSean to come up with a big-time catch. We need those guys. And they understand that."

Their play has also made an impression on the Broncos' cornerbacks.

"Courtland and DaeSean are great pickups," Bradley Roby said. "I really like Courtland a lot. I think he's going to help us a lot this year. He's a big guy, but deceptively fast. He's decent off press [coverage]. He has great, solid hands, and that's all you really need at this level; you've got great quarterbacks that are going to get it to you. He's a big body that can go get it.

"[Hamilton] is more smooth, a possession-type of receiver. He gives you some good shakes and stuff. I think they were great pickups."

That praise is valuable, but for these receivers, the words they want to hear most are the ones describing how they can continue to grow.

"[The cornerbacks] haven't told me anything, and honestly, I don't really want them to tell me anything positive," Hamilton said. "I just want them to tell me things that they can see that I can do to get better. I want them to tell me stuff that I should have done on a rep that I went against them and stuff like that."

Denver's cornerbacks have the ability to make practices rough for the young receivers, giving them something of a tough-love initiation into the NFL. But with plays like Sutton's leaping grab of a Lynch pass Sunday, the same can be true in reverse.

It's the kind of play that Sutton expects to make. It's one thing to grab the pass when it arrives in perfect timing, hitting you in stride; any pro receiver can do that. But what separates receivers is the ability to make the difficult catches, to adjust to the ball in flight.

Doing this underscores the symbiotic relationship between a quarterback and a receiver; if the passer knows that a receiver can make plays in tight coverage or when the pass is just a bit off, that receiver will get more opportunities.

"Whoever's throwing the ball, my job is to make them look good," Sutton said. "If the ball is perfect, if the ball isn't perfect -- my job is to make them look good, and that just comes with the territory of being a receiver.

"I don't really think too much into who's throwing it; I just go out there and make sure I'm executing what I'm supposed to be executing, being in the spot that they need me to be in, so that when they want to get rid of the ball, I'm in the spot that I'm supposed to be in."

Through two days of training camp, Sutton and Hamilton have been in the right spots far more often than not. That extends to after practice, when the rookies must do their duty of carrying veterans' helmets.

"I was just over [at the VIP tent] with my family, and Courtland just runs over and said, 'Hey, E, I'm going to take your helmet.' And that's what we need. That's the type of rookies that I'm used to having. That's the type of rookies that understand their role, and that will lead to wins.

"When you have rookies that don't want to be rookies, it's hard. When we have that type of mindset of, 'Hey, I'm going to be a rookie, but I still want to go out and contribute and make plays,' I like that. Those guys are very open-minded. We give and we both receive information.

"So far, so good."

Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and DaeSean Hamilton all got in on the fun on Sunday during the second day of Broncos training camp. Each player made a big catch — and those weren't the only exciting moments at UCHealth Training Center.

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