Expectations greater for a few Broncos heading into team's offseason work

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Call it what you will, but the former Denver Broncos draft picks who left for greener financial pastures in free agency, players such as Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Brock Osweiler and David Bruton Jr., will largely be replaced by the Broncos’ own prospects.

That means several Broncos will feel a little more scrutiny as the team moves through its offseason work, starting on April 18.

“Nothing drives me more crazy than to see a young player that is very talented, should be a success in this league and help his family out and himself out, and get the most and he’s not getting it because maybe he doesn’t quite understand how to work or how to be a pro,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “I’m not trying to be hard from that standpoint, but I just feel like that’s my job. When I’ve got those types of kids and I see that in them, I’m going to let them know.’’

To that end, Peyton Manning said Jordan Taylor, the wide receiver who ran most of the routes for Manning during his recovery from his left foot injury, would “surprise some people.’’

Taylor spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad.

Here are some other players who will have a chance to carve out bigger roles:

Cody Latimer: For two seasons, two different coaching staffs have talked of Latimer’s potential to contribute to the offense. The Broncos are still waiting. Latimer took the first step on the be-a-pro path last season when he became a reliable special-teams player -- Kubiak has called him “excellent.’’ With the Broncos letting Andre Caldwell simply go into the market, there are some snaps to be had for a receiver group behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders that includes Latimer, Taylor, Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood.

Darius Kilgo: Whenever Kubiak has been asked about the team’s needs on the defensive line, he always mentions Kilgo as a reason for optimism and a player “who we think a lot of.’’ At the moment, Sylvester Williams and Kilgo are the Broncos’ only true nose tackles. Kilgo got caught in the roster pinch last season as he was a game-day inactive four times in the regular season, including the last three games, and was a game-day inactive for all three playoff games. With Malik Jackson’s departure in free agency, there will be an opportunity for Kilgo to create some playing time in the Broncos’ specialty packages on defense.

Jeff Heuerman: Heuerman, a tight end out of Ohio State, tore his ACL in rookie minicamp last May and missed the season. But Heuerman justified the team’s optimism in what he did in just a few short workouts. He could end up being the starter and figures to get plenty of work. “It’s a big offseason for him and he’s worked really hard,’’ Kubiak said.

Shane Ray: Ray played in 14 games as a rookie last season, but as the Broncos transition DeMarcus Ware to a situational player, Ray figures to get far more playing time in 2016. Ray finished 2015 with four sacks and one forced fumble. “I think he’s ready to make the jump,’’ Kubiak said. “We’re expecting big things from him coming up.’’