Even with change in offense, Broncos WRs still expect plenty of work

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Gary Kubiak was hired as the Denver Broncos' newest coach this past January, some of the conversation about the team's soon-to-unveiled offense immediately turned to how much more the Broncos would potentially run the ball in 2015 and beyond.

After all, Kubiak had vowed, on several occasions, that the Broncos would run the ball more, run the ball better and make it a bigger part of the game plan. But the team’s receivers don’t see that as a problem.

"Not at all," said Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. "You just have to look at it. Peyton Manning is still the quarterback, we’re still going to throw the ball and Peyton is going to make things happen. We think we can make plays in the passing game, and if (defenses) have to worry about us running the ball more than they did, they'll have to put another guy in the box and we’re going to get a lot more single coverage, win some 1-on-1 matchups for big plays."

Over the next 10 days, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where things stand with the team.

Today: Wide receivers

Wednesday: Tight ends

How many coming to camp: 12.

How many the Broncos will keep: Wide receiver is one of the positions where the final number might depend on what happens on special teams. If the team has to keep an extra kicker to handle kickoffs -- certainly possible since none of the four kickers on hand looked ready for double duty in the kicking game during offseason workouts -- that will cost a roster spot elsewhere, and one of the places on the depth chart where that could happen is wide receiver.

With the assumption the Broncos would have to keep an extra kicker to be a kickoff specialist, they would likely keep five receivers with the fifth also being the team’s punt returner. As it stands, with Demaryius Thomas having signed a new five-year deal, the Broncos' rotation in the offseason workouts would indicate Thomas, Sanders and Cody Latimer are the team’s top three receivers.

During the offseason workouts Andre Caldwell worked as if he would be the No. 4 once the regular season began, and he is still a relative salary-cap bargain with a $1.55 million cap figure for the coming season. The rest of the group includes prospects the Broncos like, including Bennie Fowler and Nathan Palmer, and potential returners who could contribute in the offense if needed, like Jordan Norwood, Solomon Patton and Kyle Williams.

If they keep five, the return role will break the tie. If they keep six, it means one of the young prospects earned a spot the Broncos believe he can keep moving forward.

The guy to watch: It’s going to be Latimer, who was one of the Broncos’ 2014 draft picks who got lost in the shuffle last season. After a training camp last summer when he flashed plenty of athleticism and the potential to be a difference-maker in the scoring zone, Latimer went on to play just 37 snaps on offense all season.

He struggled to learn the offense last season, and the offensive staff didn’t always trust he would do the right thing if asked in game situations. This time they expect Latimer to play plenty and believe he has a good handle on the new scheme and what is expected of him.

Latimer has said he wants to play a little lighter -- about 212 pounds -- and believes that will help him.

Break it down: Thomas skipped the team’s offseason program during the back-and-forth of his contract negotiations, so the Broncos are expected to see what his fitness level is when training camp opens and gradually work him up to full participation.

It would mean a few more possible practice reps with the starters for Latimer in the early going. Overall Thomas and Sanders will get the bulk of the work in the regular season as the team projects to work out of a two-tight end or two-back set far more than last season.

Latimer looks like the No. 3, and the Broncos hope to get him as much playing time as circumstances require as they move to a three-wide look on most passing downs.