ENGLEWOOD, Colo — It was just about one year and two weeks ago today when Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas voiced their displeasure in the fact that they weren’t getting the ball as much as they wanted.
Through two games in which the Broncos ran the ball very well, the lethal combination of Thomas and Sanders had only 17 catches and no touchdowns.
While adamant that they were happy with the 2-0 start, Sanders couldn’t help himself.
“We’re used to having 100-yard games,” he said in 2016. “We’re used to scoring touchdowns.”
This season, through four games, Sanders and Thomas have combined for 48 catches, 437 yards and two touchdowns—both going to Sanders. It’s a better pace, but following a game that saw the two only catch five balls for 38 yards, head coach Vance Joseph was asked if preaching patience to his stars on the outside is important.
“You have to,” he admitted. “Most teams can’t cover those guys one-on-one, most teams won’t do that, it wouldn’t be smart. They have to be patient, right now we are getting a bunch of shell coverage and a bunch of soft boxes, so our running game is really good.”
“When a team is forced to play single-high and it gives us fair coverage outside, those two guys will show up more, he added. “Right now, it’s basically bracket coverage. That’s where Derby has to make plays for us, Bennie Fowler has made some plays. When you see Bennie catching three or four balls, you see Derby catching seven balls, that’s where it has to affect the defense.”
On Sunday, Derby caught seven balls for 75 yards and a TD and Fowler caught two for 35. Yet, much like last season when the original complaints began, the team struggled in the red zone.
Are they frustrated again?
“Receivers? They’re always frustrated,” Joseph said with a smile. “They want to catch ten balls a game. I like that, especially from [Sanders]. I like his personality, he wants the ball every play, that’s cool. He should want the ball every play, he’s a competitive dude.”
Eventually, teams will have to commit to stopping the Broncos on the ground. At that point, DT and Emmanuel will get their’s. For now, they’ll have to continue being excited about their contributions as two of the best run-blocking receivers in the league.