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Amongst quarterback uncertainty, Demaryius Thomas enters third era with Broncos

Sam Cowhick Avatar
June 3, 2016


Demaryius Thomas has always been a freak athlete. A 6-foot-3, 229-pound wide receiver with speed that regularly leaves cornerbacks in the dust is something to behold.

In person, he’s physically imposing and makes you wonder how someone so big can ever be denied the football. Yet, through his first two seasons, nobody really knew what he could or would become.

His first era with the Broncos was an arduous one as Thomas was conjoined with poor quarterback play. The resulting statistics placed Thomas far outside the outskirts of greatness.

Peyton Manning certainly changed that quickly as Thomas’ entered his second and highly impressive era in Denver. But now, as Manning plays golf at Cherry Hills Country Club, Thomas will be embarking on another era of Broncos football, and he has yet to find out which quarterback will inevitably impact how his third act is remembered.

“It’s a little more exciting because all of them can make every throw. It’s just a little different just going with somebody new,” Thomas said of the quarterbacks on Wednesday. “I’ve been with Peyton for the last four years, I think it’s more repetition. It’s going to be hard to say who I go with because I don’t know who the guy is right now.”

Thomas is coming off of historically great seasons with Manning. He is one of just three players in NFL history to have four straight seasons of at least 90 catches and over 1,300 receiving yards. He has rocketed up all of the franchise regular and postseason receiver records. Yet, in 2015, he was plagued by very inopportune drops that tarnished his otherwise very solid season.

“Coming off of last year, of course, I’ve got to do better with the drops,” admitted the imposing receiver. “People say it was one of my down seasons.”

The quarterback play dipped in 2015 from Manning’s explosive seasons from 2012-14, it may have impacted Thomas’ play. Not to mention the added pressures of a $70 million contract that kept him out of OTAs and his mother’s sudden release from prison.

The Broncos are certainly hoping the mental impediments for Thomas are in the past but now the quarterback situation more resembles Thomas’ entry into the NFL than his last four seasons.

Thomas started just two games in his rookie season of 2010 as he dealt with injury. . . and catching passes from Kyle Orton. In his very first game as a Bronco, on September 19, 2010 he caught eight passes for 97 yards but tallied only 14 catches the remainder of the season.

In 2011 Orton began the year but was supplanted by Tim Tebow. The run-heavy offense that often threw the ball less than 10 times a game, coupled with more foot injuries slowed any momentum Thomas was hoping to create. He totaled just 32 receptions in 11 games that season, ranking second on the team. Only a miraculous crossing route, highlighted by a stiff arm that propelled him into the end zone for a playoff game-winning touchdown against Steelers, saved his otherwise mediocre season.

As the 2016 season begins, the trio of quarterbacks vying for the starting job is a mixed bag of experience and talent. Trevor Siemian, a second-year player for the Broncos, is mostly an unknown. Paxton Lynch, the highly touted first-round draft pick is even more inexperienced and veteran Mark Sanchez has had performance and injury issues that have caused him to underwhelm on the field for several years. Each one is looking to Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to create the chemistry but all three have been mixing in with the ones, thus slowing any progress for one quarterback.

“You’ve got your ones working and one day Mark is in there and the next day Trevor is in there,” head coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday. “I know that’s hard, but that’s what we need to do right now to get to where we need to go. There is a lot of movement on the offensive side of the ball compared to the defensive side of the ball. For us to become a good offensive football team, we need to do that right now and find out who the guy’s going to be.”

Sanchez, a quarterback that has had nearly equal TDs and picks in his eight seasons in the NFL ,certainly likes the type of receivers Thomas and Sanders appear to be thus far.

“You see Emmanuel and Demaryius—they’re pretty intense. When the ball is in the air, it’s theirs,” Sanchez said. “That’s reassuring as a quarterback. It makes you just want to give them a shot with every throw.”

Wednesday, Thomas reported that he had maybe caught two or so passes from Siemian during last season but that has already changed quickly, Demaryius said the Northwestern product has “looked good” and “always had a good ball.”

Siemian also admitted that the quarterback situation is much different for everyone out at UCHealth Training Center this season.

“I think it’s a little unique definitely compared to last year with those two guys [Manning and Osweiler],” said the second-year man. “But Rico [Dennison] and [Greg Knapp] aren’t too far away. They’ve been great. They’re coaching me up a ton. I’m a year in, but there still is a lot to learn. I think I’m trying to do a good job of remembering that and just getting better every day.”

Thomas is on the precipice of all-time great status if he can continue with another season of 1,000 receiving yards and it would be even more impressive without Manning. It would cement his legacy.

“We’re not worried. We’ve still got time. These guys are going to be fine.” DT said of his QBs. “Sanchez has won playoff games. I can’t say much about Paxton and Trevor, but they’ve been great so far. We’ll be fine. We’ve got play-makers around. The coaches will put them in the right situation. Of course, we’ve still got our great ‘D.’ It won’t be too bad.”

DT has set himself up for greatness but, as he knows all too well, even a few drops can put a stain on even a championship season. After some memorable and forgettable seven seasons in the NFL, season No. 8 will usher in a new era and likely come under the most scrutiny for No. 88, no matter who delivers him the ball.



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