ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Tim Tebow won’t be the only newcomer to help determine the path of the Broncos’ offense in the coming weeks.
There should be at least as much curiosity about the performances of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, both of whom returned to the practice field Monday after missing multiple games with a fractured finger and a sprained ankle, respectively.
There isn’t, and it owes to the prominence of the quarterback position and the fact that Tebow will be starting, while the two Thomases are expected to be the first reserves at their positions into the action when they resume game-time duties.
Nevertheless, the next 11 weeks will be as crucial for their development as for the overly-scrutinized quarterback.
For Julius Thomas, there’s little external pressure. Everything he does, positive or negative, is framed by his lack of experience since his freshman year of high school. This is just his second season of football since then; last year at Portland State was the first.
With Demaryius Thomas, on the other hand, there exists some of the same pressure as Tim Tebow: a first-round pick who showed some flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but was then waylaid. Tebow’s path detoured largely because of the lack of an offseason to spend at team headquarters studying and refining his game; Demaryius Thomas’s was because of a torn Achilles suffered in a February workout. A fractured pinkie finger suffered during his return to practice in Week 1 only exacerbated injury woes that have defined his career.
“Yeah, that’s kind of tough because you know I’m a No. 1 pick but I (haven’t) played but 10 games,” the wide receiver said. “I feel like I need to come out and do some things on the field.”
The player he expected to be — the one the Broncos expected — has only made fleeting appearances in the last 18 months since he was drafted.
“I don’t think so, not yet,” Demaryius Thomas said when asked whether people have seen his real self in the pros. “I was healthy some and then not healthy. So, I feel like I’m probably the healthiest since I’ve been in the league.”
And that means that eight months after tearing his Achilles tendon, he’s not consumed by thoughts of it.
“I honestly don’t think about my Achilles any more,” he said. “It feels just like a normal leg. So, I’m just waiting to get my chance and get on the field and show what I can do.”
The same holds true for Julius Thomas, whose ankle injury wasn’t anywhere near as severe as some of the second-year receiver’s problems, but whose path was altered just the same.
Even Monday, he wasn’t back to full speed.
“It’s still a little tight. Definitely not 100 percent yet,” the rookie tight end said. “(I’ll) keep working on it this week (and) keep progressing every day.
“(I’ve) still got a little bit of a ways to go, but it’s encouraging.”
With both Thomases, the Broncos appear to have enough others at their positions to get by until their game-day returns, especially if Eddie Royal can play in Miami.
The Broncos want them on the field soon. But the need is more pressing — for them to show in the next 11 weeks that they can be building blocks for the passing game and the team at large.