ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – The Denver Broncos are getting to know each other this spring. They had three days of on the field organized team activities last week, three more coming up this week from Wednesday to Friday, and then they’ll have a mandatory minicamp in two weeks.
Needless to say, all eyes are on Peyton Manning. The media was allowed to watch one full practice last week and while Manning wasn’t throwing deep, it was very clear he was throwing free and loose and running the offensive show.
It was also clear the receivers are doing everything they can to show the future Hall of Fame quarterback he can count on them when they start playing for real.
If Manning turns out to be the Manning of old, and not an old Manning, all the Broncos did during the offseason is pick up one of the best quarterbacks ever. Now Manning has to figure out which receivers he can count on when they kick off in September.
It’s already obvious to one expert on the subject the receivers are stepping up their game.
“I think they’re on their way,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “Obviously I want to help them as much as possible, try to sharpen their routes, things like that. But one thing about them is that if they get open a little bit they’re open a lot to him. That’s one thing that’s a big difference this year.”
“You do try to get a feel for certain guys; not everybody is the same,” Manning said.
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He said Brandon Stokley will run his routes a little different than Eric Decker, and Damarius Thomas gives him more flexibility as far as where he can put the ball because of his size.
“That’s where these repetitions really pay off and you really get a feel for each receiver,” Manning said.
Manning already knows two of his receivers very well. Stokley was one of his go-to guys in Indianapolis, and tight end Jacob Tamme caught plenty of passes as a Colt as well.
Since signing with the Broncos Manning has spent a lot of time throwing to Decker. It hasn’t taken Decker or any other Bronco receiver very long to figure out just how special Manning is. Decker wants Manning to know he’s the kind of receiver the quarterback can count on.
“As a receiver what you want to do is become dependable, reliable. That’s just making plays on the field,” Decker said. “Obviously running the right routes, doing some extra study and just getting on the same page.”
Decker said when they step on the field it’s better if there is less thinking and more just reacting.
Thomas believes Manning can make him a better receiver and his job easier.
“Basically I think it’s just beating the guy in front of you, knowing what you’ve got to do,” Thomas said.
Manning isn’t just throwing to the receivers in practice, he’s watching every move they make, figuring out who’s a keeper and who’s not.
“I’ve always believed that you develop your timing for the passing game in the offseason,” Manning said. “I don’t think you can just show up in September and expect to be on the same page.”
He said the offseason is where roster spots are made.
“There’s a lot of benefits to this work,” he said.