ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos are throwing it back, all the way back to the glory days of 2014.
In that time long, long ago, Denver was coming off a Super Bowl appearance, just had the best offensive statistical season — including most points scored in a single season — had Peyton Manning under center and an offense deemed “wide receiver heaven” by then little-known receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
After a few down years that peaked with frustrated wide receivers in 2016, Denver is now again the glory land for players that enjoy catching the football often, according to Sanders, at least.
“We are going to throw the ball a lot more,” he said on Wednesday during voluntary minicamp. “I’m excited; I remember this offense from 2014. I landed in wide receiver heaven. It’s very pass-heavy, and that’s everything as a receiver that you want, so I’m excited.”
While Manning has been out of the building for over a year, hope for the passing game was reinvigorated within the organization in January when the Broncos hired former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to again take over the offense.
After four successful seasons leading Denver’s offense from 2009-2012, McCoy became the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Now, back with the Broncos, McCoy not only brings a scheme fit for his players, his personality is just what wide receiver heaven needs.
“I was actually looking at him earlier thinking, ‘Man this guy is cool.’ He’s very player friendly,” Sanders said. “He will talk to you; you can walk up and approach him and ask him any questions. He’s down to help. That’s what I like in coaches. Coaches like that that understand the players make the system and if the players understand the system that’s how he gets his success. I think so far he’s been doing a great job.”
In order for this offense to have a chance to return to the place to be for wideouts, though, the team needs to have more than two dominant receivers. Outside of Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos did not have a consistent third receiving option despite having a talented group of wideouts on the roster.
“Hopefully we do have a third receiver emerge because we have the guys in the room,” Sanders said. “I know this system is very pass-happy. I know that when you are excited to come to work every single day you know the system is fit for you. As a wide receiver, there is more energy in the room. There are more guys saying, ‘Oh, I could have the opportunity to go for 1,000 yards being that number three wide receiver.’”
A 1,000-yard season for a third wide receiver would be a lofty goal as Denver was the only team in the league not to have three 300-yard receivers last season. However, in 2013, with McCoy leading the offense, Denver had five players with over 500 receiving yards.
According to Sanders, the key for a player to establish himself as the third wide receiver is simple: make plays when it matters the most.
“Just make plays, make plays. You are going to make certain plays, but when the game is on the line you need to step up,” he said. “That’s how you gain respect in this league. Obviously being consistent in what you do, but also when the game is on the line making those big plays and making those big grabs that no one thought that you would make. I think all of them are capable of doing it; it’s just based off of opportunity and going out and doing it.”
Even outside of Sanders and Thomas, Denver’s receiving corp has the talent and skillset to succeed. Now, under McCoy, the Broncos’ passing game will again have the opportunity to return to a high-flying form.