Saturday, May 10, 2014
Offense gets the attention on Day 2
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- By the time the Denver Broncos had finished their work in the 2013 regular season, their offense had set several records with more than a few new entries in the league's record book on their résumé. The numbers were staggering.
The Broncos became the first team to cross the 600-point barrier. There were quarterback Peyton Manning's 55 touchdowns. There were the five players with at least 10 touchdowns. No other team in league history had ever had more than three.
Cody Latimer gives Peyton Manning another target with exceptional size and hands.
And yet in the weeks and months that followed a 35-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos have not given their offense a free pass or decided to simply remain with the status quo and hope they can catch lightning in a bottle for a second season in a row. No, they used the draft’s second day to find some new faces for the huddle around Manning.
Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway hinted as much Thursday night after the first round was over when he referred to the offensive talent still left on the board, largely fueled by a deep class of wide receivers. Considering Eric Decker is gone, Wes Welker had two concussions last season, and Demaryius Thomas and Welker scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the 2014 season, the Broncos took the opportunity to snag a pass-catcher.
Yet as the second round unfolded and the full-blown run on receivers was on -- a record 12 receivers were eventually taken in the first two rounds -- the Broncos shoved patience aside for a moment and traded three picks to move up seven spots to take Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer.
"We really liked the complete package," Elway said. “Really the cherry on top of the sundae was how he goes about and plays the game. He was the best blocking wide receiver, by far, in the draft. He took pride in what he did. He took pride in blocking. To me, that's what separated him. There’s a bunch of other really good wide receivers, but what really got our attention was the way he took pride in what he did as far as blocking and then as you said, he's got great hands. He's got great speed. He's big and he's tough. He's a complete wide receiver."
And even though every defense Latimer faced last season knew he was getting the ball in the red zone, he still scored 15 touchdowns for the Hoosiers. Which means Latimer already knows how to fight for the ball and win, something young receivers often struggle with in the NFL when, sometimes for the first time in their playing careers, they aren’t simply running free past an overwhelmed secondary when the pass arrives.
Latimer should find his way into the Broncos’ rotation in the coming season. They believe Emmanuel Sanders will flourish in their offense, giving them more speed and explosiveness with the ball than Decker, but Latimer gives them size they would have missed in the Sanders-for-Decker exchange in free agency.
"The big thing is just being physical, my catching ability, my route running," Latimer said. "I ran through the route tree pretty much on our offense. Being a playmaker, my speed for my size, playing on special teams, it helps a lot."
And in the third round the Broncos got the guy they believe can compete now for the right tackle job in Michigan’s Michael Schofield. Schofield, at 6 feet 7, is just the kind of big-framed player the Broncos were looking for and he has the ability to play guard as well.
Schofield will compete with Chris Clark for the right tackle job. The Broncos hope to move Orlando Franklin to left guard. Because when all is said and done the Broncos want to be bigger and more physical in front of Manning than they were last season. When they get shoved, this offense wants to shove back.
Because, in the end, even though they made history last season, the Broncos still thought they needed to make some changes.