ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Emmanuel Sanders called Denver “wide receiver heaven” after Mike McCoy returned this year for a second stint as the Broncos’ offensive architect.
It hasn’t exactly been nirvana for Sanders and fellow star Demaryius Thomas so far.
Blanketed by defensive backs, the veteran receivers have combined for just 38 catches and two touchdowns.
Sanders has both of the scores but his 20 catches for 190 yards work out to 9.5 yards per catch, well below his career average of 13.4.
He is on pace for a 760-yard season, which would be his worst since joining the Broncos in 2014 and embarking on three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Thomas is averaging 13.7 yards a catch on 18 grabs, right around his career average of 14.1. But he’s on pace for 72 catches and 988 yards. While most receivers would relish those numbers, Thomas has five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with at least 90 catches.
Thomas has now gone 10 games without a touchdown and seven without a 100-yard performance, both of which are career highs.
That’s not the kind of production expected from a pair of receivers pulling in a combined $15.25 million in salaries this season.
“They’re going to get their chances,” quarterback Trevor Siemian insisted Wednesday as the Broncos (3-1) installed their game plan for the reeling New York Giants (0-5). “It’s only a matter of time. I know it’s important for those guys to win, which we’ve been doing, which is good. I think when you’re losing a bunch of games it makes it harder on everybody. But we’re winning. I’m not worried. Those guys are going to get their touches.”
The answer isn’t force-feeding the football to Sanders and Thomas, either.
Coach Vance Joseph said if teams continue to focus on his star receivers, “we’re going to (continue to) pound the football.”
Siemian is certainly on board.
“They’re two of our best players, so you want to get them the ball and usually with your best players, to win you’ve got to get it to them a bunch. But the other teams are smart, too, and they understand what we’re trying to do,” Siemian said. “So, that’s the back and forth. … and other guys stepping up really helps.”
Those include running backs C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker, tight ends A.J. Derby and Virgil Green and slot receiver Bennie Fowler.
Sanders trusts he and Thomas will benefit down the road from all this attention.
“Thank God our running game is playing really well,” Sander said. “If we’re able to keep running the football like that and be multi-dimensional, it’s going to be hard for teams to stop us. You can sit up there and play zone all you want, but then when C.J. and Jamaal are running for 150 yards, at some point you’ve got to load that box and now it’s 1-on-1 with me, Demaryius and Bennie.
“That is when we have to take over,” Sanders added. “That is our jobs.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning would love to have Denver’s problems.
Last week he lost four wide receivers, including three for the season in Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Dwayne Harris (foot).
More drama came Wednesday when coach Ben McAdoo suspended veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie .
“Well, we’ve just got to keep working,” Manning said. “That’s all you can do.”
FOLLOWING FOOTSTEPS: Manning was asked on his conference call with Denver media if he’d like to follow in his brother Peyton’s footsteps and finish his career with a championship contender should the Giants head into rebuilding mode after the season.
“I think I’m on a great team and a great organization and no,” Manning said. “Hey, I’m worried about winning this game right here and that’s my only concern right now.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)