ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Emmanuel Sanders is still learning his way around town. That’s not stopping him from putting out a big welcome mat for rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer.
Sanders, who signed a three-year, $15 million free agent deal in Denver less than two months ago, said he’s glad the Broncos drafted a wide receiver in the second round last weekend.
“I like it,” Sanders said after running routes for Peyton Manning in an offseason workout Wednesday. “Whoever wants to come in and put their hands in the pile and help us win a championship, the more the merrier.
“Like I said, this is my fifth year, things happen, guys get hurt. I’ve always said you’re only as strong as you’re weakest link. And the more guys we bring in here who are about winning and the better they are physically and mentally, the better we are as a team.”
Both Sanders and Latimer are expected to replace some of what Eric Decker brought to the Broncos before leaving for the New York Jets in free agency this spring.
At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Sanders brings speed, separation and versatility to the mix and could replace Decker’s 87 catches.
At a shade under 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Latimer has an uncommon mix of size, speed and strength in the mold of Denver’s No. 1 receiver, Demaryius Thomas, but his blocking skills are more like those of Decker, who helped free his fellow pass-catchers on pick plays last season.
Latimer, who starred at Indiana, also is known for his sure hands, something he attributes to his background on the basketball court, where he was a power forward. He said his physical play in the post also led to his aggressive nature on the football field.
The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Latimer will be limited in training camp until he recovers from a fractured bone in one of his feet. Latimer had surgery to repair the break in January, the newspaper reported, and he missed all but the bench press at the combine in February before returning to run superb times in the 40-yard dash and jump 39 inches in the vertical jump during his pro day workout on March 26.
Sanders, a third-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2010, had 161 catches for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Steelers. He also has 13 receptions for 172 yards in four career playoff games.
Sanders can play both the slot and the outside, just like Decker did.
He’s going from Ben Roethlisberger, a scrambler who likes to improvise, to Manning, a precision passer who’s more about timing, but Sanders said it’s not really the big transition one might think.
“No, I’ll tell you what, those two guys, they want to make big comparisons, but Ben can throw it, Peyton can throw it. Both of those guys I feel like are future first-ballot Hall of Famers. The difference is, Peyton throws the ball a lot more. He’s in a passing system. Ben is in more of a balanced attack,” Sanders said.
And when Sanders hit free agency, he wanted to go to a spread offense, and there wasn’t a better one than in Denver, where Manning set NFL records last season by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,447 yards, proving there were plenty of passes to spread around to the likes of Thomas, Wes Welker, Decker, Bubba Caldwell and tight end Julius Thomas.
“I mean, as a receiver to say that you’re going to the No. 1 offense in the National Football League last year, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?” Sanders said. “My whole deal is when I first came out in free agency, I wanted to go to a spread attack. I like to block, but I didn’t want to block 75 percent of the time. I’m 185 pounds.”
He went from one tradition-rich team to another.
“The difference is Pittsburgh is more smash-mouth. Not saying that Denver’s not, but we’ve got Peyton Manning, so we’re throwing the football,” Sanders said. “So, like I said when I came, when they acquired me, this is kind of like wide receiver’s heaven here.”
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