ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Denver’s tight end corps of Daniel Fells, Julius Thomas and Virgil Green is among the league’s least experienced, and features only one player who’s taken a regular-season snap before Monday — and none who’ve ever played for the Broncos before now.
But when the lone veteran of the trio, Fells, had more yardage, receptions and touchdowns than the entire complement of Broncos tight ends amassed in 2010, it’s not hard to perceive the changes as an upgrade, even though the position group is by far the youngest on the Denver roster.
“It’s been a huge plus for us. To have the three guys we currently have on the roster, its great for everybody,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. “They do a nice job in the run game blocking, No. 1, and in the passing game it opens everything up because now you can’t just worry bout the guys outside.
“You have to honor the tight end and you actually have to cover them.
“Nothing against the guys we had in the past before in the past, but these guys have done a nice job for us.”
Thomas, in particular, has been a revelation, looking more refined and polished than could possibly have been expected after just one season of football experience following his freshman year of high school.
“We knew that Julius was going to be very athletic but he hasn’t played a lot of football, and he’ll tell you that,” McCoy said. “We just have to monitor what he’s doing every week and then move on. But he’ll create some mismatches for us.”
Green, a seventh-round pick, distinguished himself as a blocker t3o the point where they were willing to let go of two-year veteran Dan Gronkowski at the 53-man roster deadline last Saturday. The other 2010 holdovers, Richard Quinn and Daniel Coats, were waived/injured and released, respectively, earlier in training camp.
“Virgil became one of our best blocking tight ends,” general manager Brian Xanders said. “Looking at all the nine-on-seven tape, all the team tape, he became one of our most physical players on offense. He did a very good job on special teams; he created a role there,
“He played in all four phases of special teams, and he has good upside.”
That’s the watchword for all three of the Broncos’ tight ends. What they can deliver now matters, but what they blossom into is more important.
INJURY NOTES: Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley practiced for the first time since injuring his knee against Seattle on Aug. 27. Bunkley practiced fully. “I liked the way he moved around,” Broncos coach John Fox said.
Three players did not practice: defensive tackles Marcus Thomas and Ty Warren (triceps) and linebacker D.J. Williams (elbow). Thomas had been listed with a pectoral-muscle injury in recent weeks but was listed as out with a shoulder injury Thursday.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas practiced fully in his second session since returning from a torn Achilles tendon.
Also listed on the injury report were safeties David Bruton (shoulder) and Quinton Carter (hamstring), guard Chris Kuper (toe) and wide receiver Matthew Willis (toe). All practiced fully on Thursday.
CAPTAINS SET: Fox announced five captains for the entire season: Kuper, quarterback Kyle Orton, safety Brian Dawkins, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard. The quintet was voted on by the team.
An additional captain will be named on a week-to-week basis by Broncos coaches. The Week 1 sixth captain will be defensive end Elvis Dumervil.