When Peyton Manning chose the Denver Broncos back in March, there were a lot of questions about his health and his neck. There were also a lot of questions about the talent surrounding Manning; in particular the wide-receivers. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were going into their third seasons and while both showed flashes, there were many who felt they would be a liability to a quarterback like Manning. They still have a ways to go, but Decker and Thomas are becoming one of the better duos in the NFL.
There have been some growing pains for both; the fumbles by Thomas and Decker getting tackled by ghosts but both are on pace for their best seasons as professionals. At their current pace, both Decker and Thomas would have over 90 receptions. Thomas, currently fourth in the league in receiving yards, is on pace to finish with over 1,500 yards. Decker has scored a touchdown in three straight games and is on pace for fourteen scores on the season. The numbers go on and on but you get the idea, both Decker and Thomas are having huge seasons.
As good as their numbers and play have been in the first half of the season, both are likely to improve in the second half. Remember, the offense for the Broncos struggled early to find its stride and they were playing really good teams in that stretch. Now the offense is clicking, will only continue to get better and the schedule lightens up in the second half. If Decker and Thomas continue to progress as they have to this point, then it is very possible that both receivers could end the season with over 100 receptions. For a duo that many questioned back in August, that’s pretty impressive.
There’s no doubt that Manning has made them better receivers, he makes everyone better, but the talent was always there. Someone I know and trust made a great point last season when Tim Tebow was leading the Broncos to six straight wins. As fun as it was, he was really concerned about the development of Decker and Thomas being stunted because Tebow could not perform in the passing game. As it turns out, he was right and that’s probably why Decker and Thomas had some early season struggles. In 2011, if they caught two passes it was a big day and they were not required to run their routes with precision, as they are now. If you do not do that kind of stuff on a regular basis, then the skills are going to erode.
There were two plays that involved Thomas in last week’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals that illustrate the point perfectly. On two third down plays in the first-half, Thomas ran his route just deep enough to pick up the first down and keep drives alive. It sounds like a simple thing but running a route exactly the way is supposed to be run is a sign of a maturing receiver. Decker, on the other hand, is turning into one of the better receivers in the league in the red zone. He and Manning have put in the work and it is paying off in the games. The fade route to the corner of the end zone is almost unstoppable and Decker seems to always be open inside the twenty yard-line.
Decker and Thomas still have room for improvement and that’s the exciting part, because they are all ready a top 10 duo in the league. The numbers say they are even better than that but they must continue to eliminate the mental mistakes before we can rank them higher. This much is true, though; Decker and Thomas are more than good enough to play with Manning. The only question remaining is, how good can they be?
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