ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Demaryius Thomas' chase for his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season won’t be easy.
The Denver Broncos wide receiver figures to get plenty of attention from the Kansas City Chiefs defense Sunday, even more so since both Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and Cody Latimer (thigh) have been ruled out of the game because of injuries.
That gives the Broncos just four wide receivers who figure to be in uniform for the game -- Thomas, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor and Isaiah McKenzie. Of those four, Thomas is the only player with more than 25 receptions this season.
Thomas has 77 receptions for 892 yards so he needs 108 yards to hit the 1,000-yard mark in his sixth consecutive season. That task will be more difficult given Thomas will certainly be the Chiefs’ first priority in coverage.
Both Sanders and Latimer missed the Broncos’ loss to the Washington Redskins last weekend and as a result, Thomas consistently found himself in double coverage. He finished the game with 52 yards receiving on four catches.
Sanders, who is second on the team in both receptions (47) and receiving yards (555) had been slowed at times since he suffered the injury in a Week 5 loss to the New York Giants. He missed two games after the injury and was forced to leave several others in recent weeks for a smattering of plays, as well.
He re-injured the ankle earlier this month against the Indianapolis Colts and has not practiced since. It has resulted in plenty of attention from opposing defensive backs for Thomas.
That and the Broncos’ continued rotation at quarterback mean Thomas has just one 100-yard game this season -- 133 yards in that loss to the Giants in October.
In last weekend’s loss to the Redskins, Thomas played 62 of the offense’s 74 snaps, while Fowler played 56 and Taylor played 53. After Friday’s practice, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he believes Taylor, in particular, has made the most of the additional playing time.
“First, I’ll point out Jordan Taylor, he’s playing at a high level ... for the offense, he’s a guy you can count on, that’s half the battle when you’re a backup player," Joseph said. “You have to be a guy who can go in the game and do it right. That's your first job, do it right for us."
For Latimer, he may have well played in his last game in a Broncos uniform if the team does not choose to re-sign him in the offseason. The former second-round pick (2014) will be an unrestricted free agent.
And while he has been a core special-teams player, it’s been a bumpy ride for Latimer on offense. But he has shown flashes in recent weeks of being the kind of downfield receiver the Broncos hoped when they selected him.
He has more catches this year (19) than he had in his three previous seasons combined, and he’s had the five longest receptions of his career this season -- all since Nov. 5.
“I was very impressed with Cody from midseason on," Joseph said. “Cody was one guy that made big plays down the field for us -- contested plays. That’s huge when you’re playing receiver in this league. Most of the time, the balls are going to be contested, but he came down with them from the Philly game to the Indy game two weeks ago. I’ve been impressed with him. ... He had a good year in my opinion. Obviously, he missed the last couple games which is sad for him, but, he had a good year for us."