By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – Demaryius Thomas officially is an ex.
It wasn’t done-done until the Denver Broncos removed the former-longtime wide receiver’s banner from the outer annals of Broncos Stadium at Mile High. They did Thursday, swapping Thomas for fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders and star cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Take a look:
The team chose correctly in replacing one favorite with two others. Sanders is the Broncos’ leading pass-catcher, having snagged 56 passes for 707 yards and three touchdowns entering Week 11. He’s assumed the unquestioned No. 1 role for the first time since joining Denver, a benefactor of the Thomas trade. It’s unfamiliar territory, and yet, it’s not.
“He didn’t change spots on the field. He still played his normal position,” head coach Vance Joseph said of Sanders after the Week 9 loss to Houston. “[WR] Courtland [Sutton] played the Z, he played the X. As far as what he’s done for us the last week and a half, it’s been pretty cool to see—as far as him being a leader in that room, watching him at practice with those young guys, how he pushes them and kind of drags them along. I’ve been really proud of him. Watching him play, he plays on fire every weekend. It hasn’t really affected his play or his status on our football team at all.”
Harris currently ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 CB out of 113 qualifiers, drawing excellent marks for his suffocating coverage ability. Perhaps more alluring than his All-Pro talent is his honest nature, a quality highly endearing to a vexed fan base. Not one to pull punches, Harris owns a proclivity to offer the most constructive of criticism — aimed at teammates and coaches alike — in refreshing candor.
On Wednesday, Harris ranted about which aspect of Denver’s defense must change. Tell me you wouldn’t hear this in any orange-blooded household.
“Just eliminate the dumb mental errors that we’ve had,” he said. “The dumb—not executing the plays. We know this week we’ve got to double team and we have to execute a double team. We’ve got to execute it. We have to let all of the little kid stuff, the little kid mess ups that we’ve had—I call them ‘high school mess ups.’ The little high school mess ups, we’ve got to throw those in the bag. I kind of see it as whatever happened in the first half of the season is over with and I’m just trying to be 1-0. Just trying to have a clear mind and just forget about everything.”
Broncos fans won’t get to see the new signage this Sunday, as the team travels to Los Angeles to face the Chargers. Denver returns home in Week 12 to host the Pittsburgh Steelers.