The Cut to 53: Wide Receivers

Demaryius Thomas

THOMAS: ... ready to practice; off the PUP list.

In (5): Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Eric Decker, Matthew Willis, Demaryius Thomas.
Out (5): David Anderson, Britt Davis, D’Andre Goodwin, Greg Orton, Eron Riley.
Injured reserve (1): Jamel Hamler.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Eron Riley had the big plays in the preseason finale, but Demaryius Thomas was at the point in his rehabilitation to where the Broncos feel he can be back in game action within the next few weeks.

That made all the difference in rounding out the Broncos’ receiving corps, where the competition in training camp and the preseason revolved around who would be the fifth receiver behind a clearly established top four of Lloyd, Royal, Decker and Willis.

Thomas was on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and could have remained there for another six weeks while not occupying a place on the 53-man roster. It didn’t benefit the Broncos in any way to have him on the 53-man unless he was ready to run — and general manager Brian Xanders says he is.

“(Thomas) is cleared to practice,” Xanders said. “We’re excited about him. The receiver cutdown was tough. A lot of guys did really well. A lot of guys competed hard and Demaryius worked really hard to get back, so he’s going to be on the 53.”

How Thomas fares in his return from a torn Achilles tendon will determine the future of the unit. The Broncos’ investment in him and Decker last year lead one to assume that they will represent two-thirds of the Broncos’ front-line receivers in the years to come.

Royal and Lloyd are in the last year of their contracts. Will Decker and Thomas make one or both expendable, or will the Broncos be scrambling to re-sign their veterans next year?

That’s a debate for another day. For now, the Broncos’ 1-to-5 receiving corps appears to be among the deepest in the league, even without Jabar Gaffney, who was traded to the Redskins in July.

NOTES:

  • Don’t be surprised to see the Broncos add a receiver or two to the practice squad if they pass through waivers. Riley and Goodwin would appear to be the top candidates; Riley had 144 receiving yards Thursday at Arizona, while Goodwin had a hit on punt coverage that evoked memories of Terrell Davis’ kickoff-coverage lick during a preseason game in Japan 16 years ago.
  • Riley “played excellent,” during the preseason, Xanders said. “We’ll see what happens with him on the wire.”
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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.

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