Unless you’re someone like Tom Brady or J.J. Watt, nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to job security in the NFL. With as much of a quarter of every team’s roster turning over from season to season, the next few weeks figures to be a nerve-wracking time for some of the Denver Broncos roster.
The Broncos have the unique problem of having too many good players and not enough spots on the roster to keep everyone. For as much talent as some players may have, the constraints of only having so many openings means some players will be continuing their football careers elsewhere.
This week, we shine a light on the offensive side of the ball, with players from the wideout group that will be battling to be part of the 2017 Denver Broncos. While Pro Bowlers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are all but locks to make the team, the backup spots, as well as the third wide receiver positions will be an interesting storyline for the duration of camp. Here are three veteran pass-catchers whose roster spots could be in jeopardy.
Every training camp for the past four seasons, Latimer shows up in phenomenal condition and has coaches and teammates raving about his ability only to earn little to no playing time when the regular season opens. While Latimer has made plays on the special teams unit as an outside gunner and kick returner, you don’t move up into the second round of the draft to take special teamers. Now, with 2017 draft picks Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie on board, Latimer faces an uphill climb in order to make the final 53-man roster.
Latimer does play a different spot as a gunner on special teams than Henderson and McKenzie, so he figures to have an advantage in that area. What hurts Latimer is the Broncos looking for more production from the third wide receiver spot that Latimer has yet to claim as his own, despite multiple attempts by the Broncos to get him up to speed at the position. Henderson and McKenzie are more natural fits in the slot compared to Latimer, so it raises concern about the Indiana man making the team this season.
The man known as ‘Sunshine’ has been a nice story since joining Denver as an undrafted rookie free-agent out of Rice two seasons ago. Taylor has somewhat of a cult following due to his long hair and being the primary caddy for now-retired Peyton Manning during the 2015 season. Since then, Taylor has worked himself into seeing the field in multiple receiver sets last season and proved to be an emerging red-zone target toward the end of the year.
It’s a crowded situation at the wideout spot, and Taylor will have to fight to make the team. Both Henderson and McKenzie are set to compete at the slot position or as the primary kick returner, whereas Taylor is the primary backup to Demaryius Thomas on the outside as well as working on the coverage units. Because of Taylor’s versatility and his ability to be a key defender covering punts and kicks, he has a better chance of earning a spot on the opening night roster than Latimer.
Who was the last person to catch a pass from Peyton Manning? It might be a surprise when the answer to the question is Fowler, who caught the final two-point conversion in Super Bowl 50 that essentially claimed the Lombardi Trophy that year. In addition to that catch, Fowler looked to be making strides in multiple receiver sets and coming up with big catches like the one he had against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2015; this was in addition to working on the kick coverage teams.
Fowler is in the same boat as Latimer, as he is a bigger receiver as well as not being known as a speedster. Fowler also didn’t build on the potential he showed in 2015, dropping key passes in heart-breaking losses to the Chiefs and Titans in 2016. The sheer number of players the Broncos have at the receiver spot could be a huge factor in Fowler’s future with the team.
The old saying “If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse” applies to constructing a football team. For as much as the Broncos would like to hang on to every talented player they have, it seems they have some difficult decisions ahead when it comes to who will be catching the ball this season. While we don’t know who will come out of the group, we can say that some other NFL franchise is going to be happy to scoop up whoever the Broncos have to discard in order to make the 53-man limit.